I can always tell when it’s August. I wake up in the middle of the night for no reason. I start having dreams filled with anxiety and stress. I wonder what’s going on and then I remember. It’s August. It’s nearing the date where my brother, in a moment of despair and pain, decided it wasn’t worth it to go on.
For me the day is always worse than the date. I imagine I will forever dread the Tuesdays of this week in August. I relive over and over the events of that day. It was on a Tuesday that he called me, depressed because his personal life was falling apart. I remember getting off the phone with him feeling sad, wanting so badly to do what I could to help ease him into this new transition. I remember making him chili and bread to bring to him the next day. But I never got to bring it. I got a call telling me goodbye, a call I never saw coming. Was there something I could have done to stop the chain of events that happened that night?
There is still some of that night that I can’t remember. Time that is missing. But I remember the pain in my heart as we drove home the following night. A pain so deep and piercing that it felt as if my heart was splintering with every beat. Heartache like I’d never known before. I remember thinking that I had never before felt this kind of overwhelming pain. Someone before had experienced it and named it heartbreak. And now I knew why. This was how it felt to have your heart breaking.
I remember trying desperately to find out what happens to this crater-sized hole in your heart. Does it ever go away or would I have to live with it forever? Fortunately I read a short parable in a devotional book called Streams in the Desert (1965) that helped me. And today, I thought I would share it with you.
“In one of Ralph Conner’s books he tells a story of Gwen. Gwen was a wild, wilful lassie and one who had always been accustomed to having her own way. Then one day she met with a terrible accident which crippled her for life. She became very rebellious and in the murmuring state she was visited by the Sky Pilot, as the missionary among the mountaineers was termed.
He told her the parable of the canyon. ‘At first there were no canyons, but only the broad, open prairie. One day the Master of the Prairie, walking over his great lawns where were only grasses, asked the Prairie, ‘Where are your flowers?’ and the Prairie said, ‘Master I have no seeds.’
Then he spoke to the birds, and they carried seeds of every kind of flower and strewed them far and wide, and soon the prairie bloomed with crocuses and roses and buffalo beans and the yellow crowfoot and the wild sunflowers and the red lilies all summer long. Then the Master came and was well pleased; but he missed the flowers he loved best of all, and he said to the Prairie: ‘Where are the clematis and the columbine, the sweet violets and the wind-flowers, and all the ferns and flowering shrubs?’
And again he spoke to the birds, and again they carried all the seed and scattered them far and wide. But, again, when the Master came he could not find the flowers he loved best of all, and he said: ‘Where are those my sweetest flowers?’ and the Prairie cried sorrowfully: ‘Oh, Master, I cannot keep the flowers, for the winds sweep fiercely, and the sun beats upon my breast, and they wither up and fly away.’
Then the Master spoke to the Lightning, and with one swift blow the Lightning cleft the Prairie to the heart. And the Prairie rocked and groaned in agony, and for many a day moaned bitterly over the black, jagged, gaping wound.
But the river poured its waters through the cleft, and carried down deep black mould, and once more the birds carried seeds and strewed them in the canyon. And after a long time the rough rocks were decked out with soft mosses and trailing vines, and all the nooks were hung with clematis and columbine, and great elms lifted their huge tops high up into the sunlight, and down about their feet clustered the low cedars and balsams, and everywhere the violets and wind-flower and maiden-hair grew and bloomed, till the canyon became the Master’s favorite place for rest and peace and joy.
Then the Sky Pilot read to her: ‘The fruit – I’ll read ‘flowers’- of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness- and some of these grow only in the canyon.’
‘Which are the canyon flowers?’ asked Gwen softly, and the Pilot answered: ‘Gentleness, meekness, longsuffering; but though the others, love, joy, peace, bloom in the open, yet never with so rich a bloom and so sweet a perfume as in the canyon.’
For a long time Gwen lay quite still, and then said wistfully, while her lips trembled: ‘There are no flowers in my canyon, but only ragged rocks.’
‘Some day they will bloom, Gwen dear; the Master will find them, and we, too, shall see them.’
Beloved, when you come to your canyon, remember!” (March 16)
I may not understand why God allowed my brother to take his life, but I must remember that Jesus sees the end from the beginning. He knows the good that can come from the bad and I must simply trust. The canyon will always remain, but beauty can grow from it.
It has been said, “The best way to heal from a broken heart is to give God all of the pieces” (author unknown). Allow His healing waters to pour over the hole in your heart. Let him turn your grief into sorrow, the gaping hole, into a thing of beauty. Let the flowers of gentleness, meekness, and longsuffering grow in every crevice of your pain. And in doing this, you will allow God to fill the hole in your heart and turn that something ugly into a thing of beauty. A beauty that is grown only in the canyon of grief.