I’m on my last day of medical leave. After this weekend I’ll back at work, slowly re-establishing a routine, and continuing whatever healing process God seems to have me on.
Now there’s a thought.
God and I still are having words about the necessity of the WWF Smackdown that’s happened over the past few weeks. If God had just left things alone, life would have been so much more peaceful. But I know that’s the self-centered, Know-It-All voice in me that doesn’t want to admit reality.
Calvin and Lori are moving on to the next chapters in their lives.
And that’s a good thing. Not bad.
It’s painful. But it’s good.
Would things have gone belly-up had they stayed? Not from where I stand. Life probably would have been just as painful, and just as good. It’s easy for us, as humans, to try and create reasons to help us ourselves feel better in the midst of pain. Sometimes I get suspicious of those reasons…
“See? You lost your job so you could learn to make more space for yourself in your life!” (perhaps, but trivializing a loss of income to justify the need for a little self-help is dodgy to say the least)
“See? You miscarried so you could experience the love of God surrounding you!” (ummm, no. I don’t believe for a second that God steals life just so that love can be more experiential)
“See? There’s no food in your house so you can learn to rely on God’s provision!” (not the time or the place. If you’re gonna talk smack, go buy some food for your friend!)
Time and again, we try to find silver linings that simply aren’t there. Time and again we fail to see the dangerous cycle this creates by getting us to hold on to false hope, faulty reasoning, and distorted images of God and love and friendship and life.
Like many people in my little community, I’m grieving. I’m grieving the loss of friends, while healing from a superb burnout that not even 12 shots of tequila could mend. Puppet Master Anxiety with his minions Guilt, Grief and Depression are all yucking it up on this one. Other community members and friends are grieving sudden deaths, suicides, lay-offs, and food insecurity.
But after some serious searching, I found a counsellor who specializes in anxiety and social disorders; I found my appetite returning bit by bit; I sat stunned when my seminary told me it would help cover counselling fees, and I sat more stunned when my Synod told me it would help me with more; I cried with gratitude over the incomparable set of parents I’ve been matched with (they’ve come one day a week for the past two weeks to help overcome the mountain of housework I couldn’t tackle on my own, fed me, propped me up, been gentle with me, and quite simply have been my best friends); I unashamedly gorged on Gilmore Girls; I had my first photography critique with The Arcanum just today, and was able to try and articulate some of the struggle with my friend and master.
And I’ve come to realize something:
While joy, among many other things, can be love shouted and declared, grief (among many other things) is love and gratitude confessed.
We don’t want to declare loudly our love and gratitude; we don’t even want to share it at times during seasons such as these; we sometimes don’t want to explain it, express it or even experience any more of it. Even confessing it is like an admission of Love’s presence… of Gratitude’s presence… and their change or loss becomes all the more real.
So often we as Christians gloss over the painful confessions of our ancestors and of ourselves. We want the mountain-tops all of the time. But in the depths, it seems almost abominable to suggest that our sincere grief is… love. (of a form)
No! Not that!
Guilt is right on cue and reminds me how selfish I’ve been or needy or clingy or isolated or wrong or bad or unsupportive. Perhaps I have been those things in some capacity. But if Love and Gratitude weren’t there inside me for my friends, Grief wouldn’t be nearly so huge.
Good for them.
Yeah sure I’ll pack a few boxes.
No, no, I can’t help clean the house. I’ve got a life. Geez.
That’s not how this has played out.
In our separations, in our losses, in our miscarriages, in our deaths, in our job lay-offs, in our spaces where relationship is torn and bleeding, we suddenly come to a profound awareness that grief is love and gratitude confessed.
Simple as that.
Now this Love and Gratitude can certainly become unhealthy, just like any other reality; and it can be manipulated or hurt or get stuck. But its fundamental nature remains:
All confessed in the tears, the pain, the sadness, the “what nows???”, the heaviness in the chest, the loss of appetite, the strange sleeping patterns, the lack of strength.
Here is my confession of love: I will miss these people. They are my spiritual parents. While my role in their lives may be different from their perspectives, I can’t change the impacts they’ve had ON my life. I can’t change their narratives that have played out IN my life. These are mine to cherish and to keep.
During seasons when we can’t find reasons to be grateful for anything because of the sheer grief of life, perhaps this small nugget might find a home in our waking and sleeping hours:
Grief is love and gratitude confessed.
Maybe Guilt and Anxiety can take a break on me for bit. Maybe the Puppet Master can call in some vacation days in light of the reality that Anxiety doesn’t get to have the all the strings on Grief. Maybe I don’t need to be so ashamed of how badly I feel I’ve reacted to the world over the past eight or ten weeks.
In the confession comes an exhalation… a sigh… a release and a relief.
Confession is good for the soul, they say.
In this moment, ‘they’ couldn’t be more right.