The Chasm

The death of a loved one is like a catastrophic bomb blast, and the more tragic the loss, the bigger the explosion.  Perhaps you saw it coming and had a chance to shield yourself a bit before impact, but as you are putting your hands over your eyes you are uncomfortably aware that your meager defenses aren’t really enough to make a difference.  The explosion happens all the same, the blast blows hot on your skin, the whole world shakes, and for a little while you find yourself frozen.  You don’t move, at first because you can’t, and then because you can’t see anything at all.  But then the smoke starts to clear, and as your eyes begin to adjust, you see the chasm.
There is a massive chasm now at your feet, right where your loved one used to be.  This is exactly where the bomb hit, only inches from your heart, and as you look down you realize just how close to the edge you really are.  The chasm is so deep and dark and wide that you know instinctively that if you tried to measure it, you would just fall in.  You can’t see the other side of it, try as you might, and it occurs to you that you don’t really have any proof that there is another side at all.

You stand motionless on the edge of the terrible chasm for what feels like forever before you fully understand that all of the wishing in the world won’t make it go away.  Your loved one is gone and this great void remains.  You didn’t choose this destruction, but here it is all the same.  Your legs are fatigued from standing rigid and your eyes are blurry from trying to peer through the darkness.  Your chest still quakes from the force of the blast, but inside your quaking chest is a beating heart that rhythmically whispers to you over and over: “you cannot stay paralyzed forever.”  You know that you have do to something.  
Your first thought is to turn around and walk back the way you came and pretend like the chasm isn’t there.   Here you have no room to move, but the ground behind you is solid and there you don’t have to watch your footing.  You can run and skip and dance.  The problem is, you know that even if you turn away from it, the chasm will still be there.  Ignoring it does not make it go away.  You will spend your days pretending to move with careless abandon but in reality your every motion will be stilted by the terrifying fear of accidentally falling in to the looming blackness over your shoulder.  As much as you would like to pretend that the chasm doesn’t exist, you realize that the chasm is as real as you are, and this isn’t a valid option at all.
You then think that maybe you should just fall in to the chasm yourself.  This would be so easy to do.  Your legs are so tired, and sometimes even when you are standing still you feel like the ground is slipping away under your feet.  A little dark voice inside of you tells you that there really is no other side to the chasm, that it is a cliff instead, and your loved one is down there at the bottom of the cliff waiting for you to join them.  The voice tells you tales of anger and bitterness.  The voice tells you that trying to see light through the darkness means abandoning your loved one.  Even though you suspect the voice lies, in your most broken moments you find yourself listening to it anyway because you realize the voice sounds a lot like your own.   You want very much to just stop trying to stand strong and to give way to the darkness.  You want to slide down the jagged side of the chasm, embracing the pain as you hit rocks and roots and boulders on your way down.  You are so numb and the pain would remind you that you are alive.  Pain is something you can understand.  The chasm is not.  You close your eyes for a moment, imagining what it would be like to just take a step forward and let yourself fall free.  The blackness pulls at the shards of your broken heart like a magnet, but you somehow muster enough strength to resist.  Despite the draw of the darkness, you suspect your loved one isn’t really down there.  They are somewhere else, and they wouldn’t want you to fall.  You tell the little dark voice to go to Hell.
You stand there, toes on the edge, your mind racing.  You know that you cannot turn around.  You know that you must not fall in.  So what is your only real option?  Your only real option is to cross the chasm.  Your only real option is a bridge.
But you can see no bridge.  This chasm is too new, too vast, too undiscovered.  You realize in a moment of panic that building the bridge is up to you.  But how are you supposed to build a bridge alone, across a chasm you cannot measure?  How are you supposed to build a bridge when you are so weak you can hardly stand, never mind lift a stone or a plank?  How are you supposed to build a bridge when you can’t even see the other side?  How are you supposed to build a bridge when you don’t know where to start? 
While your head swirls with questions, you become aware of a presence next to you.
“I noticed you have quite a chasm there,” says the presence. 
You turn to the presence.  You don’t know what to say.  You assumed others must have heard the bomb blast, but you have felt so alone.  You didn’t realize anyone else could really see the chasm like you could until now.
“I see the darkness too,” says the presence, “but I know what bridges are made of.  I brought you something.”
The presence hands you a wide stone.  On the stone is etched one word: friendship.  You bend down and put the stone right in front of your feet - right on the edge of the chasm.  You expect it to fall in, but it doesn’t.  You don’t know why, but it doesn’t.  You gingerly step forward onto the stone, and it holds firm.
The presence smiles and hands you another stone.  On this stone is etched the word: laughter.  You lay this one down in front of the first and it holds firm too.  You almost can’t believe it, but because it seems solid and you don’t really know what else to do, you take another step.
The presence hands you more stones.  Camaraderie.  Candor.  Support.  Action.  Hope.   Trust.  Acceptance.  Love.  The stones are heavy and you take them with great effort, but you continue to lay one in front of the other, stepping on each previous stone as you put a new one down.  Before you realize what is happening, you are standing on a bridge.  You aren’t all the way across the chasm, but you are standing over a part of it, on a bridge that is stronger than you could have imagined.  You can look down and see nothing but blackness on each side of you, but your feet are secure.
“How is this possible?” you turn and ask.  “How am I building a bridge across a chasm I cannot measure?”  
“It is possible because you keep taking the stones,” says the presence.  “It is possible because even though the chasm is real, these stones are real too.  It is possible because you keep taking steps, even though you cannot yet see what is on the other side.”
“But what if I fail?” you ask.  “What if I cannot take any more stones?  What if they are too heavy?  What if you are too far away?  What if I fall in?”
The presence says nothing but smiles again and points to a stone that is larger than all of the previous stones.  On this stone is etched one word: Faith.
“This is the heaviest stone,” says the presence.  “But this is the stone that will get you to the other side.  You must take it, but I will help you.”
The presence smiles and steps out onto the bridge next to you, carrying the massive stone.  You don’t know if you have the energy to hold it up, or if you even want to try, but you take a little bit of Faith in your hands anyway.  As you do, the darkness under you begins to illuminate.  You look around and realize that your loved one was never below you at all.  They are above you, and they are smiling too.  You can see them, and they are whole, and they are smiling too.  You also realize for the first time that there was already a bridge across the chasm. You could not see it until now, but the bridge has always been there.  You have been laying stones on top if it the whole time.
You turn to the presence with tears in your eyes, only to realize that the presence isn’t next to you anymore.  The Presence is now on the other side of the chasm.  You can’t see him, but somehow you know he is there.  You are holding Faith on your own.
“What is happening?” you call out across the chasm.  “How did you know the bridge was there?”
“What is happening is your healing,” says the Presence.  “What is happening is the Truth.  I knew the bridge was there because I have walked it myself.  In your darkest moments, I have felt your pain as my own.  I have grieved more fully than you can ever imagine.  But what is also happening is the beginning of the future that I have for you.  I know that there is something amazing for you on the other side of this chasm.  You just need to keep holding on to Faith, and you will get there.  If you keep holding on to Faith, all of your steps will be sure.”
“Keep holding on to Faith?” you ask incredulously.  Faith is so very heavy.  You aren’t sure how much longer you can carry it over this great chasm, but you step forward anyway.  The presence smiles.   Your loved one smiles too.
And you keep stepping.  And with every step you take, you realize that Faith becomes lighter.  With every step you take, you realize that Faith has become less of a burden and more of a part of you.  With every step you take, you realize that Faith has now become what keeps you going in the first place.  
You keep stepping but you pause occasionally as you near the other side of the chasm.  You realize that the chasm is now not only terrible, but is also beautiful.  You could not have seen it from the other side, but here on the bridge, you can see it now.  You can also see that there is life on the other side.   The details elude you, but there is glorious life there.  The life is as real as the chasm is, it is as real as your loved one is, and it is as real as you are.  And in the middle of that life is the Presence, drawing you forward with open arms.
And you realize that the Presence is the most beautiful thing of all.  And if it weren’t for the chasm, you may have never recognized Him.
* * * *
    Sometimes I am on the bridge.  Sometimes I am the stones.  Sometimes I am both at the same time.  But the presence... the Presence is always Jesus.
    “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4
    “Jesus wept.”  John 11:35
    “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  Revelation 7:17
    * * * * *
    If you see yourself in any part of this story, then this story is for you.


    Steve Finnell said...

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    Gwen said...

    Nice work Jess!! It reminds me of these verses..2 Cor 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight....Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,the evidence of things not seen.

    A Work in Progress said...

    love it. perfect.

    Leonard Solomon said...

    Jess, that's really beautiful; a metaphor to be stored in the heart, for whenever courage is needed.

    Jess said...

    Gwen, great verses. Thank you. And thank you all for your kind words. I am so glad this post has been meaningful to many people. It came to me very quickly and I have to believe it was meant to be shared. Thanks again for taking the time to read it.

    Erin said...

    This is beautiful, Jess. It's a walk that so many have taken, and sadly, the bridge remains obscured to those focused only on the chasm. I pray that these words will encourage others to pick up the stone of faith, though heavy it sometimes may be. Beautifully done, my friend.

    Jess said...

    Thanks, Erin. You know the bridge well, and your words mean a lot.

    Mike said...

    Jess, as I started reading this, it made me think of instances in my life, especially  recently, where there is this overbearing emptiness. The fear that goes with this emptiness is the most difficult for me. As I read on I felt a warmness fill my heart.  Knowing that I can make it to the other side - eventually. Sometimes I lose sight of what is in front of me as I continue to look back. Reading this and another event has helped me refocus and to look forward to what may be. Thank you! :)

    Jess said...

    Mike, I am so glad you are feeling refocused. You can absolutely make it to the other side, my friend. Look forward and look up and take hold of faith, and the future will be amazing! I know it will be.

    Melanie said...

    Such a wonderful picture of faith and healing, Jess. Reminds me of when a friend pointed out that His Word is a "lamp to my feet, and a light to my path" ~ the lamp on my feet only illuminating a small portion of the journey we are on and continuing as we go. Not sure if it's a proper interpretation, but it certainly rings true in my experience!

    Praying for you guys as you face the chasm of grief in faith. Very sorry for your losses. Amazing to watch the redemption in all of it, though.

    slapbreeya said...

    I have faith, but not in the same way. I have faith in truth, fear, life and death. It is a beautiful post. No wonder it is your most popular. Much peace and love. Anthonee

    Jess said...

    Anthonee, thank you for your thoughtful comment. My condolences for your loss. Your blog is lovely. God's peace and grace to you as you seek truth. May the Truth set you free.