Practicing the Art of Grieving – May 27, 2010

gradI graduate this Friday. Along with this comes the inevitable question: So, what’s next? And I hate this question. On multiple levels. The reality is, I don’t want to move on. It is so hard to step from what is known into what is unknown. Ambiguity. I can handle and even appreciate it in my life. But when it seems as though every aspect of my life is entering into a weird, unknown existence, I long for some sort of security blanket (or in my case, a soft pillow).

This transition is made more difficult, because I really love where I am. Almost three years ago I entered seminary to study spiritual formation and to train to become a spiritual director. I didn’t know what spiritual direction even was. I began school having experienced the hardest season I’d ever been through. I was shattered, dusty, and weary, a 26-year old ministry burn out. That first semester was water to my soul. I was hearing words, explanations for why we are the way we are. It was as if someone was able to give words to the things I had experienced as a Christian. I was invited to be real and it was refreshing.

It was also hard. There are aspects of the self, hidden vices that masquerade as virtue, that were not appealing places to visit. There was also unresolved pain. Life got messy. Looking back, I do not know how I remained so engaged in this program. I think the idea that stuck with me throughout my time was, it is hard, but worth it. I had an overwhelming sense of this is where I needed to be.

Grieving has never been easy for me (and it’s probably not easy for anyone). Yet, our lives are so full of grief. Even on small levels, there is continual loss in our lives. A few months ago I was watching the news and they were showing footage from the memorial service for the Georgian luger who died right before the Olympics began. People were walking through the streets, wailing. My immediate response was to think that was odd – most of these people do not know the man who died. It struck me though, that there was something beautiful about this communal experience of grief. And not just that it was communal, but also that there was this acceptance of grief and freedom to express it publicly. These are a people well-practiced in the art of grieving. I think for those of us in Western cultures, this is not the case. Grief is to be shoved down or hidden. It is a private matter. But we cannot escape it. We can try to ignore it (which only works for so long) or we can engage in it and learn to how to grieve well.

I am reminded of the journey of the Israelites, especially their 40 years of wandering. Loss of freedom. Loss of Egypt. Loss of food choice. Loss of stability. Loss of Moses. Yet, some of the things lost needed to be lost. In all their grief though, the Israelites didn’t lose God. He was the one and only thing they could grasp onto. And I believe that remains true for us today.

So, I willingly (or somewhat willingly) enter into the unknown, with mustard seed-like faith, that God has me and that He knows what He is about.

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