We’re rolling into August. August is a really hard month. It’s the month of my husband’s death. This will be year 4 without him. It’s hard for me to say it’s the anniversary of his death because it seems that anniversaries are something to be celebrated. And so, that just doesn’t sit well with me.
The funny thing about August rolling around, is that it usually sneaks up on me. We’ve hit summer when things tend to relax a bit - I might go on a little vacation, hang out by the pool, just take a bit of a breather. And then…August. The grief comes in like the August heat wave in Texas. It’s unbearable.
Ok, so most of you know that I’m a life coach. And seriously, I’m trying hard to manage my own mind around this one. But, man this is hard. Some people encourage me to take some time to remember our life together, our family together. All the fun times we had, all the silly things he did, all the unique things that made Brian Brian. And honestly, I’m not sure if remembering helps. Because when I remember all those things, all the laughter, and the date nights, and the ridiculous amounts of time spent at estate sales he called “adventures,” or the quiet evenings on the back patio - when I remember all that was familiar, all that once was, it just seems to make things worse.
I’m wondering if there’s anyone listening that knows what I’m talking about.
I came across a passage in the Bible not long after Brian died. It’s Psalm 137. The passage is titled, How Shall We Sing the Lord’s Song? It’s a lament expressed by a community of Israelites that were taken into exile in Babylon after their home, Jerusalem, was destroyed. The first verse of Psalm 137 says, “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept when we remembered Jerusalem.”
So, the Israelites were captive in a foreign land. And they lamented over their beloved Jerusalem. They lamented over the destruction of their homes, being stripped of their familiarity, their security. They lamented over what once was. All that they loved and held dear.
At the time that I read this verse, I was literally taking scripture passages in the Bible and making them personal. So, my personal translation of Psalm 137:1 was this, and I literally wrote it in the margins of my Bible: “In this foreign land, I sit down and weep when I remember the beauty of how things used to be.” This foreign land, this place where everything has changed and nothing looks or feels the same, I miss the familiarity and security of what once was. Sometimes, I still sit down and weep. August is a hard month.
So then in verse 4, the people ask this question as they remembered being in exile, harshly treated by their captors. They asked, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”
See, it was not enough that their homes and beloved city had been destroyed, and all that was familiar was stripped away. Now, the Babylonians were requiring the Israelites to sing their scared worship songs, but only for the Babylonians’ own entertainment and mockery. And even though these were songs that previous would have been the Israelites encouragement and songs to express their faith in God, now they ask, how can we sing of encouragement and faith in this foreign land where things are not as they once were and we’re struggling to find any hope. It’s a fair question! How, indeed?
In 2015, as my mother was in hospice care at my home after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, the Lord allowed me to find the song called Ever Be. These are the words of the opening verse: “Your love is devoted like a ring of solid gold; like a vow that is tested; like a covenant of old. And Your love is enduring through the winter rain, and beyond the horizon with mercy for today. Faithful You have been, and faithful You will be. You pledged Yourself to me, and it’s why I sing, ‘Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips...’
During my mother’s decline and after her death, this song was my steady support. It was on constant repeat wherever I was - in my home, in my car, during a walk. Constant. I had surrendered faith that no matter what happened I was going to give God praise because He deserved it. No matter what. So, we sang this song at Brian’s service, too. Surprisingly, I remember every detail of that service. Every song. Every note. I stood up every time another song played. Bless their hearts, then the whole church - full of people there to honor my husband - stood, too. They did that with me with every song. Hm. What a remarkable bunch of people there that day. I’m grateful.
But, how do we sing when we find ourselves captive in a foreign land? When nothing looks familiar. When we’ve been dragged to a place in life that has stripped us of everything we love and hold dear. When our security is gone. When we’re scared and feel like life is just mocking us? How do we praise God with songs of faith and worship? By God’s grace and help, for sure. But also, by remembering that the Lord is a God who has pledged Himself to us in love and devotion through a faithful vow and covenant. And with that covenant, He promises never to leave us alone; that He is an alive and active God who is working 1000 things out, though we may only see the few. He is faithful to provide, to protect, to rescue. And through the pounding, winter rain, His love is there with us, holding our head above water, walking us through to the other side. So, now the question becomes, “How could I not sing the Lord’s song while I’m in this foreign land?”
Yes, August is a hard month because of my husband’s death. But it’s also a beautiful month. It’s the month my oldest son married his bride, and my youngest son got engaged to his. So, we will remember, honor and celebrate all that happened in August. And maybe this year it will be more about celebrating all that Brian gained upon His death, rather than all I’ve lost. For certainly Brian is living Another Beautiful Life because Jesus died on the cross for him. For him, and for me, and for you, friend.
Oh God, Your praise will ever be on my lips!