A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss

by Jerry L. Sittser

Hardcover(Revised and Expanded Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310258957
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 01/01/2005
Edition description: Revised and Expanded Edition
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 74,664
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.88(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jerry Sittser is Professor and Chair of Theology at Whitworth University. He holds a master of divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and a doctorate in the history of Christianity from the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books, including A Grace Disguised and The Will of God as a Way of Life. Married to Patricia, he is the father of three children and two step-children, all grown.

Read an Excerpt

A Grace Disguised

How the Soul Grows through Loss
By Jerry Sittser

Zondervan

Copyright © 2004 Gerald L. Sittser
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-310-25895-2


Chapter One

The End and the Beginning

You know as well as I there's more... There's always one more scene no matter.

Archibald McLeish

Catastrophic loss wreaks destruction like a massive flood. It is unrelenting, unforgiving, and uncontrollable, brutally erosive to body, mind, and spirit. Sometimes loss does its damage instantly, as if it were a flood resulting from a broken dam that releases a great torrent of water, sweeping away everything in its path. Sometimes loss does its damage gradually, as if it were a flood resulting from unceasing rain that causes rivers and lakes to swell until they spill over their banks, engulfing, saturating, and destroying whatever the water touches. In either case, catastrophic loss leaves the landscape of one's life forever changed.

My experience was like a dam that broke. In one moment I was overrun by a torrent of pain I did not expect.

Lynda, my wife of nearly twenty years, loved to be around her children. Each one of them was a gift to her because, after eleven years of infertility, she never thought she would have any of her own. Though she earned a master's degree in music from the University of Southern California, became a professional singer, choir director, and voice coach, and served church and community, she could never entirely let go of her longing for children. When she delivered four healthy children in six years, she was overjoyed. She relished the wonder of motherhood.

In the fall of 1991 Lynda was teaching a unit of home school to our two oldest children, Catherine and David, on Native American culture. She decided to complete the unit of study by attending a powwow at a Native American reservation in rural Idaho. So we piled our four children into the minivan on a Friday afternoon to drive to the reservation, where we planned to have dinner with the tribe and witness our first powwow. My mother, Grace, who had come to visit us for the weekend, decided to join us on the excursion. At dinner we talked with tribal leaders about their projects and problems-especially the abuse of alcohol, which undermined so much of what they were trying to accomplish.

After dinner we strolled to a small gymnasium, where the powwow had already begun. Once again we sat with several tribal leaders, and they explained the dances that tribal members were performing and the traditional dress the dancers were wearing. One dance in particular moved me-a dance of mourning for a loved one from the tribe who had recently died. I was mesmerized by the slow, understated movement of the few who danced before us. The dance, chant, and drumbeat created a mood reflecting the sorrow that they-and now we-felt.

After about an hour of watching the powwow, several children from the tribe approached us and invited our two daughters, Catherine and Diana Jane, to join them in a dance. The boys decided to explore the gymnasium for a while. That gave Lynda and me an opportunity to learn more about the tribe.

by 8:15 p.m., however, the children had had enough. So we returned to our van, loaded and buckled up, and left for home. By then it was dark. Ten minutes into our trip home I noticed an oncoming car on a lonely stretch of highway driving extremely fast. I slowed down at a curve, but the other car did not. It jumped its lane and smashed head-on into our minivan. I learned later that the alleged driver was Native American, drunk, driving eighty-five miles per hour. He was accompanied by his pregnant wife, also drunk, who was killed in the accident.

I remember those first moments after the accident as if everything was happening in slow motion. They are frozen into my memory with a terrible vividness. After recovering my breath, I turned around to survey the damage. The scene was chaotic. I remember the look of terror on the faces of my children and the feeling of horror that swept over me when I saw the unconscious and broken bodies of Lynda, my four-year-old daughter Diana Jane, and my mother. I remember getting Catherine (then eight), David (seven), and John (two) out of the van through my door, the only one that would open. I remember taking pulses, doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, trying to save the dying and calm the living. I remember the feeling of panic that struck my soul as I watched Lynda, my mother, and Diana Jane all die before my eyes. I remember the pandemonium that followed-people gawking, lights flashing from emergency vehicles, a helicopter whirring overhead, cars lining up, medical experts doing what they could to help. And I remember the realization sweeping over me that I would soon plunge into a darkness from which I might never again emerge as a sane, normal, believing man.

In the hours that followed the accident, the initial shock gave way to an unspeakable agony. I felt dizzy with grief's vertigo, cut off from family and friends, tormented by the loss, nauseous from the pain. After arriving at the hospital, I paced the floor like a caged animal, only recently captured. I was so bewildered that I was unable to voice questions or think rationally. I felt wild with fear and agitation, as if I was being stalked by some deranged killer from whom I could not escape. I could not stop crying. I could not silence the deafening noise of crunching metal, screaming sirens, and wailing children. I could not rid my eyes of the vision of violence, of shattering glass and shattered bodies. All I wanted was to be dead. Only the sense of responsibility for my three surviving children and the habit of living for forty years kept me alive.

That torrent of emotion swept away the life I had cherished for so many years. In one moment my family as I had known and cherished it was obliterated. The woman to whom I had been married for two decades was dead; my beloved Diana Jane, our third born, was dead; my mother, who had given birth to me and raised me, was dead. Three generations-gone in an instant!

That initial deluge of loss slowly gave way over the next months to the steady seepage of pain that comes when grief, like floodwaters refusing to subside, finds every crack and crevice of the human spirit to enter and erode. I thought that I was going to lose my mind. I was overwhelmed with depression. The foundation of my life was close to caving in.

Life was chaotic. My children too experienced intense grief and fear. John was seriously injured; he broke his femur in the accident, which required him to be in traction for three weeks and in a body cast for another eight weeks. People from everywhere called on the telephone, sent letters, and reached out to help and mourn. Responsibilities at home and work accumulated like trash on a vacant lot, threatening to push me toward collapse. I remember sinking into my favorite chair night after night, feeling so exhausted and anguished that I wondered whether I could survive another day, whether I wanted to survive another day. I felt punished by simply being alive and thought death would bring welcomed relief.

I remember counting the consecutive days in which I cried. Tears came for forty days, and then they stopped, at least for a few days. I marveled at the genius of the ancient Hebrews, who set aside forty days for mourning, as if forty days were enough. I learned later how foolish I was. It was only after those forty days that my mourning became too deep for tears. So my tears turned to brine, to a bitter and burning sensation of loss that tears could no longer express. In the months that followed I actually longed for the time when the sorrow had been fresh and tears came easily. That emotional release would have lifted the burden, if only for a while.

Of course I had no way of anticipating the adjustments I would have to make and the suffering I would have to endure in the months and years ahead. Still, on the night of the tragedy, I was given a window of time between the accident and our arrival at the hospital that presaged, at least initially, what lay ahead for me. Because the accident occurred in rural Idaho, just outside the Indian reservation, we were at the scene for well over an hour before an emergency vehicle transported the four of us to a hospital-another hour away. Those two hours between the accident and our arrival at the hospital became the most vivid, sobering, memorable moments of reflection I have ever had or will ever have. I was lifted momentarily out of space and time as I knew it and was suspended somehow between two worlds.

One was the world of my past, so wonderful to me, which was now lying in a tangle of metal on the side of the road; the other was the world of my future, which awaited me at the end of that long ride to the hospital as a vast and frightening unknown. I realized that something incomprehensible and extraordinary had just happened. By some strange twist of fate or mysterious manifestation of divine providence I had been suddenly thrust into circumstances I had not chosen and could never have imagined. I had become the victim of a terrible tragedy. I ransacked my mind for options that would provide a way out of the pain I knew intuitively loomed ahead for me and my family. In that brief window of time I exhausted all possibilities except one. I realized that I would have to suffer and adjust; I could not avoid it or escape it. There was no way out but ahead, into the abyss. The loss brought about by the accident had changed my life, setting me on a course down which I had to journey whether I wanted to or not. I was assigned both a tremendous burden and a terrible challenge. I faced the test of my life. One phase of my life had ended; another, the most difficult, was about to begin. When the emergency vehicle arrived at the hospital, I stepped out into a whole new world.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser Copyright © 2004 by Gerald L. Sittser. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Preface
1. The End and the Beginning
2. Whose Loss Is Worse?
3. Darkness Closes In
4. The Silent Scream of Pain
5. Sailing on a Sea of Nothingness
6. The Amputation of the Familiar Self
7. A Sudden Halt to Business As Usual
8. The Terror of Randomness
9. Why Not Me?
10. Forgive and Remember
11. The Absence of God
12. Life Has the Final Word
13. A Community of Brokenness
14. The Cloud of Witnesses
15. Heritage in a Graveyard
Notes

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Grace Disguised 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sittser shares a deeply personal tragedy with readers, opening up the way for their own healing. He doesn't sugar-coat things, but is very vulnerable and transparent in revealing his pain but also his growth. His main point is that grief and sorrow--suffering--can make us bitter or better, it's OUR choice. By facing the pain and doing the grief work needed with God's help and grace, we can grow and embrace loss, which will only enhance our lives. It's just nice to know we're not alone in our pain, that Sittser has been there, and he does the best thing: he points us to God, to show us that God cries with us and loves us and hasn't punished us with our sorrow/suffering.
kikiCC More than 1 year ago
Thank you, Jerry Sittser. You helped me understand how loss and pain enlarge my soul and make more room for God and his grace. I appreciated the honest look at the question that haunts everybody at some time or other: How can a good God allow evil, especially to those who look to him for safety? And how are we to trust such a God? I have already shared this book with others. Buy it. Read it. Then pass it on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book absolutely transformed my life and my experience of loss. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Since reading it, I have purchased and given away at least a half dozen copies to others. It is phenomenal.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book inspired me to take back my familys life after we lost our 17 year old son in a single car accident on January 23,2010. Even though we all were experiencing a catostrophic loss each one of us was dealing with it very differently. What Jerry wrote made total and complete sense to me and so grateful I read it soon after our loss. This book carried me just as our families do through this:)
AuntStephie More than 1 year ago
This is by far the best book I have ever read on grief and loss--of any kind. I lost my fifteen year old nephew in a tragic car wreck just six months ago. A Grace Disguised author, Jerry Sittser gives an empathetic view about maneuvering through day-to-day life after a traumatic loss and how survival and restoration are possible. Though life is never ever the same, a peace and a grace will come in the space between now and complete healing and reunions in heaven. I believe this is a book that everyone should read at some point in their lifetime.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The grieving process is a powerful event in anyone's life. That's why this book would be highly recommended. The author provides an insight to dealing with loss that only someone who has dealt with it can. This is a good book. I'd also suggest that you buy another book called "When God Stopped Keeping Score." It's an intimate look at the power of God and forgiveness. Given the chance, it too will change your life.
RHSTX More than 1 year ago
Jerry Sittser's story is tragic. He lost his mother, wife, and one of his children to a drunk driver. What makes this book different from the typical "suck it up, be strong, God takes his favorite lambs first, nothing happens unless it's for the good of the body, she's in a better place, God loves you, God has a plan for your live, etc" junk that these books usually try to feed you, Sittser invites you on his journey of pain, anger, questioning, and guilt. He raises his kids as a widower. All of them, father and children alike, question for meaning and gaze to the past. Can real healing ever come after that happens to your life. This book gives a pretty good view and a pretty honest non-apologetic 'answer'. THIS BOOK IS ONE OF THE FEW THAT REALLY TOUCHED AND HELPED ME...
MarleneCO More than 1 year ago
This book is easy to read and understand. It is well written.
BitsBacon More than 1 year ago
I appreciated Dr Sittser's book very much. All, especially those who live a long life, will encounter tragedy--its a part of life. I think his book helps those who have gone through a tramatic loss and can also help prepare those before a loss occurs. This book comes from a Christian perspective and frames Dr Sittser's thoughts. I'm keeping this book... I think a good one to review periodically. I also knew Dr Sittser when he was a chaplain at Northwestern College in the early 1980's. I personnally found to be sincere and authentic individual.
JanieA More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended to me by someone 30 years younger than myself. I wasn't sure how I'd like it, but found once I started that I wanted to keep reading. The author has a great way of writing with authenticity and honesty of his reactions to tragedy. He doesn't sugar-coat anything or make it trite. Loss is something you don't recover from in that life doesn't return to the way it was, yet he gives hope to get through it and find happiness again. I think it would be good reading for anyone who has encountered a loss. So often we as friends feel limited because we haven't experienced a loss like theirs, but he has, so they can relate to his feelings and accept their own struggles.
lbradf on LibraryThing 5 days ago
This is a most inspirational and encouraging book. Dr. Sittser lost his wife, daughter, and mother in a collision with a drunk driver. This book is his story of recovery and God's grace in and through the tragedy and grief. I believe this passage captures the essence of the book's message: "I did not get over the loss of my loved ones; rather, I absorbed the loss into my life like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nancy0628 More than 1 year ago
Jerry Sittser transparently shares his grief in a style that would be difficult, if not impossible, for most of us to express in writing. God used his suffering through immense loss and injustice to help those of us who are have experienced similar pain.
lindylovesreading More than 1 year ago
This book is life-changing for anyone who has experienced a loss of any kind. Please read it and share it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful help through the process of grieving. Written by a man who experienced tremendous loss of his wife, children, and mother in one car accident. It helped me a lot, and also others I have given it to.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the only book that helped me grieve and feel comforted when my 42-year-old husband died. I have given it to countless others who, in turn, have purchased it and given it to still others. Better than any flower arrangement...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book not only brought me comfort, it validated what I was feeling after my only child died in a car accident. So much of what Sittser writes struck at the core of my being. Sittser clearly states the best alternative for those who are grieving--get on with living and integrate the death or loss into the life you are left with. This book was especially helpful for me as a Christian: it was another reminder that God didn't intend for me to understand his ways.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When my boyfriend was killed in a car accident in college, my pastor gave me this book. At the darkest point in my life, I found someone who could relate to what I was feeling. The author, who lost 3 members of his immediate family in a drunk driving accident, shares his grief journey, with all its agony, questioning, and pain. He tackles the big questions of injustice in the world and 'where was God?' extremely well. I would recommend this book without reservation to anyone suffering a recent loss.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read the 1st edition of this book in 1998 after the loss of my husband. I could not put it down. I continue to refer people to this book. It is absolutely the best book related to loss. A must read for anyone experiencing loss.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My grandson passed away 7 months ago tomorrow. This was an incredibly comforting book that addressed absolutely everything I have thought, felt, and questioned. The explanations given were simple yet profound. Even if I had not suffered my loss, I would have been cheated by not reading this beautiful book. My heart and soul are so much more accepting and content today!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The best book on grief that I have ever read.