I've known this weekend was coming for a while now. I've seen the slides at church with the photo of Jill and her daughter, smiling (alive), from a previous walk. I've heard people talking more and more about her. I've read all the gut wrenching entries from Jill's last week of life on her daughter's blog.
I also made the mistake of stumbling across some older Crowder CDs and played them without realizing that I would be face to face with music from her funeral.
That was a major mascara running moment on my way to work last week.
I think a lot of us try to make sense of these situations. If we can justify why something happened in our minds, then we can try to understand why this happened. Even if they are flimsy reasons, our human brains can at least start to process what happened, why it happened, and why we should be ok with it.
For the record, I don't think I'll ever be "ok with it."
But, I've spent a lot of time this week during my commute thinking of my life and how much it's changed since she's been gone. I think in a lot of ways my time at MACU is marked by my friendship with Jill. Jill was one of the first few people who knew I was applying. Jill prayed with me about making the decision. Jill was the example for me when I was feeling selfish about a 2 hour commute. Jill was one of the first (non-relative) people I called when I finally heard the news that I was asked to work at MACU.
Jill was the one who constantly challenged me to be better. She was the one who cheered me on. She was the one I went to for prayers, for advice, for support. She was my mentor in addition to being my friend. I am eternally thankful that she was there when I was going through the madness of deciding to leave public schools and taking on the position at MACU.
She was such a companion to me. Such a confidant. Such a friend.
And then, at the beginning of this school year, she passed away. And I went to the DCB conference more broken that I have ever been in my entire life. And then the incident on campus happened. I hobbled through the rest of the semester trying to make sense of everything that had happened.
I didn't have that one person to turn to. I didn't have Jill. I didn't have her support, I didn't have her advice, I didn't have her hugs and prayers, or words of peace.
So, I clung tighter to my faith. I felt and lived the words in Psalms. I poured my heart out in my journal and here on my blog. I had the love of my family and a few select friends who walked with me, but for the most part this was an inward battle that I needed to fight alone.
I wrestled with this grief--occasionally it won, and occasionally I knocked it down for a while.
But this week, I gained new perspective into His divine timing. I was driving, listening to "The Glory of It All" and recognized my struggles in the words of the song. This song was the one selected to play at the beginning of Jill's funeral service. I remember standing on the stage, barely holding any sort of composure or control, when I heard the words,
Everything will change
Things will never be the same
We will never be the same
I remember standing on the church stage thinking: this is my world. Everything would change.
And it has.
But this week, for the first time in a very long time, I paid attention to the rest of the words of the song and let them sink in.
After all falls apart
And somehow, God revealed to me that this was one of the reasons I was called to MACU. It was for my healing. It was for me. I needed time and space to cling to Him. I needed an environment that encouraged personal growth. I needed to be around a community of believers who would call me to be a better person. I needed the healing of seeing His words revealed in our lives--through my colleagues, through the students, through the alumni. He knew I would need this time and space to heal. He knew I would be angry and lonely. He knew I needed this daily reinforcement and encouragement.
It was a startling change of perspective.
And all this time I thought it was about me plugging a hole at the institution.
But it was a gift. For me.
And I am forever thankful.