I have had sadness welling up in my heart and mind since the weekend. Two UBC students died in a horrible accident on the Sea to Sky highway on Saturday. My heart goes out to their families and friends. But I confess I have had my own reluctance to fully enter into the feelings rising to the surface. You see, I have experienced great loss this year and I know there are still sensitivities and unresolved pain there for me and especially for my friends who feel the weight of their loss more dearly.
Christmas is coming.
Gifts are wrapped.
But there is a tear in the paper and I see a gift that comes with tears. Shall I open it?
Loss and grief crash through the thin veneer of invincibility we wear as a shield to our vulnerabilities and mortality. I have a smouldering anger just under the surface. The smoke stings my eyes and generates fear. Its a fear of losing again.
Christians believe God enters into our suffering, our loss, and our grief.
When Jesus came from the communion of God to enter with flesh into the relationships He had ordained for us: with God the Father, with people, with self, and with the stuff of earth, Jesus did not come with a special shield against loss and grief.
He had friends; He attached; His daily life was woven intricately with their lives with memory, with presence, and with hope for the future. They did life together. Knowing that his friend Lazarus had died and knowing that He would raise Lazarus up did not give Jesus immunity against the grief.
32Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus wept. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” John 11:32-
God meets us in our grief and people can too.
Losses come. Grief is the pain telling us all is not well in the world. The smile of God seems hidden. But if we meet Him in that grief, if we wait for Him in that pain, our hope is that we will live again.
We don’t have to open this grief gift alone. Its good to reach out to friends and family, to pastors and counsellors, for company and when we are ready some insight. Opening the gift requires talking and knowing someone else is listening as a witness to our grief.
What about happiness?
I think the well of joy we long to drink from must be dug through the ground of our grief. Its too easy to settle for surface pleasantries and trivial cover-ups.
The extraordinary reality of Jesus’ identity was hidden from Mary and Martha and even the disciples until they entered into the grief with him. Jesus’ declaration, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” surely filled their hearts and minds through the years.
Oh how He loves us!