Sometimes Christians have a hard time talking about our grief. We think we need to be happy all the time. Like our witness to Christ depends on it. Seeing the news from the Southern Baptist Convention yesterday, even though it’s no surprise, still made me sad. And mad. It’s just one snap shot of the condition of the church. And I think we need to grieve that. Maybe right now that is what we need to do as a church. Lament to God. I have been journaling to God some since the new year and this is a short meditation on the personal grief I’ve been carrying in my experiences with church the last few years. And practicing gratitude for it. Grief does something for us and we can embrace that.
I am going to try and practice gratefulness for grief. It’s been over three years of carrying a grief. Much joy and newness has been given in it. Because there was much death. Today, I am grateful for that agony that refused to let me stay numb. The agony that woke me up to then die to faux blessings in my life. To false belonging. To success. And to even being the one to give my kids the “right” path to the faith.
Die to the wealth I thought I’d fashioned in my spirit. To take up heaven. To take up mourning. To see the others there, dying too.
Today, sitting with the sadness that our family doesn’t have a church home, that one cannot seem to be found, that as we search I carry the shame of the label troublemaker, resistor, woman into new spaces. How will I be seen? Will I be seen?
Today, sitting with the fear that accompanies the bravery of reaching out to another pastor to inquire for our family. In the dysregulation of this vulnerability and all it conjures up from my history of not being safe in church,
“The riddle and insight of biblical faith is the awareness that only anguish leads to life, only grieving leads to joy, and only embraced endings permit new beginnings.”
Ah yes! What a salve to my soul! The reminder of God’s freedom to create! But are we listening and looking for it?
The poetry and lamentation of Jeremiah, he says, speaks prophetically into Israel’s numbness and his anguish. Sitting in the truth of what is. He stands in between Moses and Jesus.
“The alternative community knows it need not engage in deception. It can stand in solidarity with the dying, for those are the ones who hope. Jeremiah, faithful to Moses, understood what numb people will never know, that only grievers can experience their experiences and move on.”
Grievers let go of the hustle. The false narrative. The numbing. The closing of the eyes. The deception that we are the makers of our blessings. In our agony, we are in need. In our agony, we see others in need. In our agony, we are given hope. We feel.
Many have wondered over the short verse, “Jesus wept.” We sentimentalize it, carry it in our change purse, not allowing its weight to be felt.
“But now I understand the depth of that verse. Jesus knew what we numb ones must always learn again: (a) that weeping must be real because endings are real; and (b) that weeping permits newness. His weeping permits the kingdom to come. Such weeping is a radical criticism, a fearful dismantling because it means the end of all machismo; weeping is something kings rarely do without losing their thrones. Yet the loss of thrones is precisely what is called for in radical criticism.”Walter Breueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination
I’ve seen the thrones and the numbness in my own faith community. I’ve experienced the agony of its machismo. The complete lack of imagination, wonder, and awe of what God is doing. The dehumanizing. I’ve had to die there. From there. With all its losses. Hope is born, even in the continual ache. But more needs to die of my own thrones.
Lord, thank you for grief. Thank you for this portal to imagine who you really are. How uncontrollable your love is. How out of our bounds it is. How generous and wise it is! The door to our imagination opens at these deaths, reveling in your freedom to create something new there. A whole new world within a world.
“For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13
May I place my hand right in the scarred hand of Jesus. Is there anything more trustworthy than a weeping Savior who faced the dregs of darkness and the pit of agony to fill us with himself?