Saturday, September 10, 2011

Loving and Living: Facing a New Future (Some thoughts on Grief)

I have an overactive mind.  It’s constantly working: thinking about what I need to do, writing sermons and reflections, thinking about the last book I read, reminding me about friends and family.  Seriously: my mind and heart never stop.

And lately my mind has spent a lot of time on one topic: grief. 

First, (well, really, first we moved across the country and then...) I read a wonderful book by Greg Garret about grief (Stories From the Edge: A Theology of Grief).  It’s narrative theology (theology expressed through story) and served as a well-written reminder of all I believe about God and grief.  Things like: God is in the midst of our suffering and God is bigger than any of our theology boxes.  Most of all, this book brought me back to story and how important it is to tell our story.  When we tell our stories, reflecting on our lives, we are telling God’s story, the ways God works in our lives and our world.

Secondly, many of my oldest and newest friends are experiencing grief.  There are all kinds.  One friend has just moved and she is grieving her old life while embracing the new.  Another friend is grieving the death of a child.  Still another friend is grieving the end of her marriage.  There’s more.  At times, I feel it is everywhere, all over.  Each one is different and, at their core, they are similar.  Each grief is a reminder that our lives are very fragile; we are very fragile.  Indeed, life is so fragile that every life will crack, every life experiences death.  And I find myself yearning for gentleness: that we would be gentle to ourselves and one another.

Thirdly, the tenth anniversary of 9/11 means that for weeks now everywhere I’ve turned there are stories about grief.  And each story, though different, is the same.  They are each stories of loss.  When someone or something dies, we must confront the reality that their future is not ours.  The moment grief begins is the moment when nothing will ever be the same.

As I sat in my car and wept over the 9/11 stories, I knew that I was not only crying for the grief of strangers.  When I sat at my counter and cried over a friend’s blog, I knew I was not only crying with her.  Those tears hold countless stories of my own: relationships ended or gone astray, loved ones who have died, changes in life that mean the future looks different than I thought or imagined. 

I’m always tempted to hide these tears, store them up inside my heart.  To allow them to flow freely means embracing the fragility and vulnerability of life.  And this scares me.  Yet, my faith in Jesus is quick to remind me about the power of vulnerability.  Every time Jesus healed the sick, fed the poor, cared for the weak and neglected, he made himself vulnerable.  His ministry made him an enemy of the Empire and a prime candidate for death on the cross.  And his death, the most vulnerable act of God, led to the resurrection, the most powerful act of God.  When we are able to live authentically, reveal the vulnerability of our hearts, risk the fragility of our lives, we make ourselves available to the power of new life. 

And, oh, it is so hard.  Loving and living; walking into a future that is new and different.   This morning I took a deep breath and decided to try.  I know I’m not the only one.  I heard and tried to echo the refrain: be gentle, live gently.  And I’m grateful, joyful, that we were able to meet each other and risk weaving our lives together.  Because, frankly, I don’t want to live alone; I’d rather do this with you, even if it means I might lose you.

Peace be with you,

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