Last night I had the pleasure of attending a class at Fuller Seminary, my old stomping grounds, with three dear women with whom I work. The professors are wonderful, skilled Kingdom-laborers who have been comforting and helpful to our mission at different times. They invited us to visit their Self Care in Mission class whenever we were able. The interplay of significant days, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, was noticed and the material on lamenting and grief was timely. With love, comes grief. And how do we love people in grief? How do we love ourselves when there is loss?
It is comforting to me that the longest book in the Bible is largely a complaint to God–writing inspired by grief and disorientation. The Psalms both comfort and grate at us because though there is lament, though there is protest and pain and depression and fear, relationship with God is not forfeited. They make space for both the grief and the celebration, demonstrating the power of remembrance and hope without compromising the darkness of betrayal and pain. They recognize deep loss without submitting to it. They demand that that space is possible and salvific and foreshadow the cross and the empty tomb appearing in the same Story.
Lent is a ritual of grief. It is offering our feeble and fleeting attention and presence to the suffering of Christ in recognition that love is solidarity, as God chose incarnation—being with—as the means of salvation. It is hard to allow others to grieve and it is hard to allow ourselves to face loss, when we have no space. When we observe no lent, when our spirituality is based all on sunrise services, when faith has been corrupted into an upper, having nothing to say about the suffering in the world that best reflects and best introduces the suffering of Jesus. It is easy to eventually surrender and submit to grief and darkness when it compounds into a mountain and the god we’ve learned is terribly irrelevant.
In Deuteronomy, we are shown great depths of the character of God. I don’t like some of the things I’ve read. I don’t understand parts of Israel’s story. I have noticed though that God’s actions and instructions are steeped in love and generosity. He is jealous and He is mighty but makes so much gentle room for the sojourner and the widow. He make so much room for the people He named priests. He makes so much room for the people’s requests and restoration. He provided symbols, songs, analogies, instructions—all for the health and loyalty of the Hebrews. He changed curses into blessings because He loved them (23:5). He provided them with sandals and clothes that did not wear out in the wilderness (29:5).
To me, that is a picture of how to love in grief. To be people who embrace and support others when they are wandering, when they are confused and there is pain, is to be those sandals. To be their cloak is to join their disorientation, to face the scorching sun, to echo the prayers of the desert. We wait for the curses to change together. We wear ash and lament together. We create the space for one another so that once again, both death and resurrection are written…together.
Wonders of my Days: