A Country Called Grief

Sunday, March 05, 2017

A country called grief

Written for the believer, on the concept of remaining in faith after a traumatic life event. This is not in relation to coming into belief from disbelief, so may be a bit much for someone who isn't already a Christian. 

This post is based on a statement made by a friend: 

"Grief has no country Love cannot invade."

The thought came to her in a dream, and when she shared it I was struck by how applicable it was to the process of healing we, as Christians, go through after suffering trauma.

When I was in my initial state of grief, after losing my daughter, I was most assuredly in a land of my own. There was no one who spoke my native language, because no one else had actually touched the smooth skin of my daughter's knees or rubbed her knobby heels. Even my husband, who had seen her smile (twice), was in a different place. He had to make the decision to remove care, to take away the wires and tubes which were keeping her alive. His country was one of post-birth indecision and stark realities, while mine was a country with memory of her strong movements in my womb and decisions about how far we would go before calling it quits.

As illustrated in my own family, the path of child loss due to medical issues is solitary precisely because no one travels it in quite the same way. Each individual has a unique interaction with doctors and the deceased, leading them into a different contemplative realm.

My country also consisted of post-birth collecting of other LBWC stories, and presenting them on a website -- a passport of sorts for parents facing a new diagnosis. It consisted of late-night texts and rapid fire Facebook messaging about survival rates and undiagnosed portions of the disorder. My country consisted of women who took all the blame for their child's deaths and debated about whether it was ethically responsible to take the lives of the disabled. 

Another mother's geography may have been vastly different than mine, because her child was not mine, her experiences were not mine, and her results were not mine. 

We all live in our own grief-countries. Even when speaking of sorrows not involving child loss, each man is an island. From the person facing financial ruin due to poor choices and the person facing hardship due to the actions of a family member, to the father who must make the decision to turn off the machines, everyone eventually faces unexpected heartache. That heartache is unlike anyone else's because each of us is unlike any other human alive.

The good news here? There is a "cure-all" for devastation. 

Let me rephrase that, because "cure-all" sounds a little flippant. 

There is a balm for the broken heart.

If our grief is a lonely island, then love would indeed be an invading force, but there is one caveat. Note in the phrase above, the word "cannot".

"Grief has no country Love cannot invade."

The distinction here is important: love can invade the grief-stricken heart, but will it? Will it enter a place where hope has been tossed aside and the view is clouded with premonitions of unending misery?

Will love enter uninvited, a force to be reckoned with, knocking out all the detritus of loss?

And here again I must clarify: I'm not speaking of whether we should initially heed the call, but whether Love can overcome any sadness, any desperation, any event which brings us to our knees for those of us who hear Him call to us.

The answer is so clear: 

Love is best illustrated with the crucifixion of Christ. While those of who answered the call, like Lazarus -- dead to our own power, pulled forth solely by His might -- focus most of our attention 
on the resurrection, the crucifixion is just as important: at baptism we are baptized into the death of Christ, we are buried with him. 

Death is part of the equation. Before the resurrection, there first needed to be a love action to seal the deal. 

"Tetelestai" spoke our Christ, as he gave up His spirit on the cross. "It is finished, the contract has been sealed". A word meant to signify the bond created on a legal document between two previously unaffiliated parties became the ultimate love language. 

The gift of that Love has been freely given. It comes like a tidal wave, pushing out everything in its way. We have no power to stop it. It forces itself into every crevice of our lives. 

Whether we choose to open our Bible and read the Psalms of King David, who so clearly spoke words of both despair and comfort thousands of years ago, or whether we choose to step into that church -- the one we left so long ago -- this Sunday morning, we are compelled to allow Love to invade our grief. In declining to do so, we deny understanding of the very fabric of our own Christianity, we deny the promises of the God who promises us that:

"He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Each day when I wake, I am compelled to ignore the despair which would surely ruin me if I let it fester. 

(That despair is an idol -- and sometimes I want the despair more than I want the Love. The sadness is like a comforting friend. It keeps me warm and protected. When I think too deeply of my loss -- too deeply of my tiny child -- I am tempted to push all the Love away.)

This is why in the deepest parts of grief Love sometimes seems to come like a true invader, unwelcome, a conquering army. Grief is safe. My grief connected me to my Beatrix and allowed me to imagine I had some small measure of control over an untenable situation. 

Love? Love says, "Trust Me. I have it all planned out. You will want for nothing." 

Love says, "lean not on your own understanding", and "God's will be done", even when the Will and the Love bring you into a place where all around, the darkness seems impenetrable. 

Love invades when the terror is at its heights. Love invades when the Christian has fallen on her knees in abject horror at the mess her life has become. Love invades at the moment the plug is pulled, the door is shut, the breathing stops- Love invades in all those moments we believe ourselves to be entrenched in an hopeless fight. 

Can Love invade?

For the Christian the answer to this question is always a resounding "yes". No matter what the grief -- Love can answer it. Love can invade in the most insidious way -- dropping in slowly enough that it's presence isn't felt until its already filled the gaps. Or, Love can come roaring over our defenses, pushing all other idols from our errant hearts.

The best news, the Gospel news, is that Love will always invade. Love will always overpower. Love can, and will, always overshadow any grief we can conjure up for ourselves. 

Because Love always wins. 


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