I’ve been in a weird place for about 6 months now. Early October 2015 is when my dear friend Aletha passed away. She was a beautiful, unique soul. Mostly though, she was one of my people. She’s someone I would text when life got crazy, when I needed to vent about my teens or when I just needed to be reminded of how sweet Jesus is. Everyone loved her and I think we all believed she would be healed. So when the Lord decided to heal her on the other side of heaven; there was pain but also shock.
As a trained mental health professional, I am well aware of the stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. As a “good Christian” I thought I would be better prepared and move into the “acceptance” phase smoothly but the truth is that I’ve stayed in the anger part for much longer than I thought I would. I believed that I should be OK, I should have a period of grieving and then move on, it was God’s will after all, who was I to argue with that. So I tricked myself into thinking that I was fine.
But I’ve realized that I have not moved on. I am still angry and not only because of my friend’s death but I’m angry over many other mini-deaths I’ve had to grieve. Dreams, expectations, and time I can’t get back. And to be honest this has surprised me. I thought my faith was deeper than that. Maybe it is though when I actually let it be instead of using faith as a kind band aid.
In the Daring Way we talk about a lot about numbing and the differences between doing something to numb (watch 14 hrs. of Downton Abbey because I just can’t deal with life) vs engaging in something as comfort (watching one hour of Downton because the show is just delightful). There are all kinds of things we can use to numb; food, drugs, sex, shopping, etc. The problem is that numbing keeps us from connection and it generally keeps us stuck.
In some ways I’ve used religion to numb. I’ve gone to church, sung the songs, read the scriptures, prayed. BUT my heart has been distant. I don’t really want to trust God because if I do then I have to accept that even though He loves me, He may ask me to give up something else.
Truth- I don’t want to give up anything else. So I’ve kept God at a slight distance. Sure, I’ll pray, ask Him to bless others, etc. but my heart has been a bit hardened.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve really had to rumble with my grief. There are just circumstances beyond my control; small deaths of hopes and dreams for myself and my loved ones that have had to be buried. Relationships that will never be as I had hoped. Outcomes I expected would happen but didn’t. Disappointment.
But as I’ve embraced practicing mindfulness I’ve had to take an honest self-assessment and admit that I’ve been avoiding my “stuff”. And it’s come to a head.
Last week I had a major temper tantrum with God. I thought I was better than that. Apparently I’m not.
Grief brings a deep sense of loss sometimes it’s just a yearning; something we didn’t even know we wanted until it’s gone or no longer an option and we are left feeling a bit lost unsure how to navigate this new reality.
And I’ve been wandering lost pretending that I don’t care instead of looking for the path towards healing and forgiveness.
But in order for forgiveness to happen something has to die. That’s why grief and forgiveness go hand in hand.
This is a hard truth. But what about when you’re not sure you forgive God because someone/something did die?
It’s interesting. Ironic perhaps that I’m rumbling with all of this as I sit preparing for my Rising Strong spring retreat next month where we will tackle rumbling with not only grief but also shame, trust, anxiety, criticism in order to fully own our stories, rise from our falls and face our hurts in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness to our lives.
I thought I needed to have it all figured, not still be rumbling with such things because I’m the LEADER. But I think there is wisdom in the process. That’s where the growth happens.
I spoke a few weeks ago at my church about growth and how God can take the little we have to offer (even mustard seed sized) and produce a harvest. We think about having faith the size of a mustard seed but sometimes I think it’s not just faith, but also trust, hope, joy that can feel oh, so small. I still have a little bit of those and I believe it’s enough for God to work with.
And I’m learning that I have to be OK in the mystery. It’s uncomfortable and there are days when I absolutely hate it but I feel more alive at those moments as opposed to when I’m perfectly comfortable “numbing” but feeling very little.
Oh friends, is there something you’re rumbling with?