more grief observed...
This year has been a season of unprecedented loss, grief, and temptation to despair. I’ve done more reflecting, journaling, and crying out to the Lord than in any other time of my life. I’ve experienced an incredible desire to “be seen” as I’ve grieved. I’ve spent more hours alone with the Lord, not in Bible study, but in simply sitting in peace. And I’m sure it’s not over—but I feel like I’m supposed to settle in for the time being and give myself grace in this spot.
I wrote last spring about how observing my grief and my feelings gives me the potential to harness them for growth and depth in my life. And that has surely happened. I’ve seen the Father pursue me to grow in areas that have surprised me—and that I thought would be worth sharing.
I had the opportunity in May to preach at my church on the topic of fruit and how it develops in my life. I got this opportunity by sharing with my pastor that I was angry that, in the book of John, Jesus says that the branches that are already bearing fruit are the ones that get pruned. And pruning is a painful cutting away/stripping/shearing off process. Being a visual person, I could picture the branches attached to the vine being hacked back. I had the wrong assumption in my mind that producing fruit would keep me from painful pruning. It’s like I’d never really read Jesus’ words.
As a branch, I want to bear good fruit, the best fruit. But the cutting back and stripping away path to that good fruit has been tremendously painful in this season. I’ve felt the Lord asking me questions like:
“Is this not my right and decision to allow the hard into your life to bring about quality fruit to glorify Me?”
“Do you trust Me?”
“Will you keep walking this path, even not knowing the outcome?”
At fifty-four I’ve settled a few things.
I want a deep relationship with the Lord.
I want to glorify Him with my life, words, actions, and thoughts.
He is the King of my life, and that requires allowing Him to act as King in any way that He chooses.
He is worth everything.
Walking this path of grief has driven these values and truths deep inside me.
I’ve also had the opportunity to be extremely transparent and vulnerable with some close friends. I’ve always considered myself to be a fairly open person, willing to share honestly about whatever was going on in life. But I’ve found during this season that I have felt so tremendously broken that I’ve just wanted to hide and be alone. And this has been a new experience for me.
Gently, the Lord has called out these feelings of shame and has put me in front of some trusted friends that have seen me and offered consistent love and encouragement. This has been especially hard, as this season has lengthened past what I’ve deemed as “an acceptable amount of time to be sad.” :) (Like I can choose the length of time I will experience any given feeling!)
It has caused me to chuckle, when I’m not crying, to think that shame wants to get me from all angles! Shame for my actions, shame for feeling sad, shame for sharing that I feel sad, shame, shame, shame . . . that may make a whole post of its own!
Curt Thompson, in the book The Soul of Shame, explains that the cure for shame is vulnerability. I remember reading this sentence and thinking, “So that’s why I feel so determined to hide.” I’ve forced myself time and again to text or call some friends when the shame hits.
Again, walking this path of grief has driven the value of exposure and transparency deep inside me.
Having a fairly optimistic and happy personality, sadness, despair, and depression were fleeting experiences for me before. During some really difficult times, these feelings were around for a while, but they never really took hold as if they were permanent. Not so this past year. A deep sadness has settled in and goes with me daily. I wrote on windows in our house and at camp, “Today we fight for hope.” That’s a needed reminder. Hope, not despair. God is a God of hope. He brings hope. He is the reason we can hope. He wants my face turned up in hope. I’ve felt these words from the Holy Spirit over and over.
And hope’s close cousin, I’ve found, is joy.
I recently rewatched the movie Inside Out at the encouragement of a friend. I was startled by how much Joy wants Sadness closed out of the equation. I could see so many times in my life recently, when I struggled to allow both of them to coexist together. I really have no option. In this season, it seems like, if I want joy and hope, I must get comfortable with the sadness.
Walking this path of grief has forced me to be comfortable with sadness being my travelling companion.
All changes of season bring a sense of grief and loss.
And God brings good things in every season.
I’m learning to count the good things alongside the hard things.
I’m learning to be thankful even for the sadness and tears that are so close to the surface.
We’ve hosted many campers thus far in five weeks of summer camp. Because of the tears that are so close in me, I’ve been privileged to cry alongside staff struggling with depression and anxiety. I’ve been able to cry alongside campers abandoned by parents they thought they could trust. And I’ve gotten to sit and cry with young women silent about their pain but needing someone to just sit in that silent space.
I’m learning to observe the grief in order to ripen the fruit that’s growing. I pray that for you as well.