Grief Has a Voice (Are You Listening?)

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At the worst of times, in the worst of places, we hear the whisper.

“There’s something more to this,” it says.

“Lean in,” it implores.

We aren’t often told that the Holy Spirit and Grief are partners.

Mostly, we’re taught a narrative that they oppose one another, that we should trust the Spirit but keep the words of Grief far, far from our hearts, because she will surely tell us something we don’t want to hear. She will surely break us and we won’t know how to put it back together again.

But if we imagine Grief and the Spirit as partners, the voice of God takes on human flesh all over again, for Jesus's life was full of grieving.

He grieved as he left home, when his days of carpentry were over.

He grieved when he moved through the wilderness and into his calling.

He grieved from Gethsemane.

It taught him who he was.

And every season of shedding a piece of his identity only to take on a purer one required the work of Grief– holy work, indeed.

We are people who numb, fix, and manipulate pain.

But Grief has something important to say, whether we want to hear it or not.

I suggest we try.

Because when we realize that we are not the only ones who are grieving– that all of humanity grieves, individually and collectively– we understand how the Spirit works.

The Spirit, birthed from Jesus himself as a gift to us, leads us out of isolation and toward one another.

And when we get there, it doesn’t mean that Grief’s work is done, that we’ve arrived at a place of joy, with no more sadness or sorrow.

It means that we continue listening to what Grief has to say, and we do it together.

She teaches us to care for our enemies.

She teaches us to forgive.

She teaches us to let God mend our hearts.

She leads us out of racism, sexism, greed, bigotry, and idolatry.

She calls us toward wholeness, if we only let her do the work.

And the Spirit holds her hand along the way.

So my friend, next time you hear Grief whispering for you, pay attention.

She is a gift in a form we don’t always understand.

But her voice is universal.

We are a nation grieving.

We live on an earth that grieves.

We go to church and synagogue and temple with grieving people.

We share sidewalks and cubicles and turning lanes with others who grieve.

That’s why Shalom’s work is not yet done.

And for all the distortions of peace that come with our bodies and souls, Grief and Shalom are partners, too, teaching us that community always works alongside the moving parts of everyone.

And we’ve got to work through the pain to get to the other side.

“First the pain, then the rising.”

–Glennon Doyle Melton

So may we lean in.

May we listen.

May we grieve.

And may we journey toward Shalom together.

 

Amen.

DON’T FORGET 2016: when mourning leads to action

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I’ve read a lot of posts giving us permission to put 2016 behind us and move forward with hope.

Maybe we’re grieving the death of a part of us, or someone that we left in that year.

And when 2017 rolled around, we said good-bye to everything and everyone to begin again.

But the problem with leaving “the past in the past” is that we miss who we are because of it. I’ve watched people I love mourn those that they lost. They didn’t wish to forget them after the mourning period was over; they hoped to live into the legacy of that person, to walk in the light they left, to learn something from them, even after death.

So what did we leave behind in 2016? What died and what took its place?

The grief of those memories carry themselves in us, quiet and steady, often painful.

But the mourning process is out loud, our speaking and writing and making public that we are hurting and are asked to get better, to heal a little, to find comfort, to do something.

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Today I woke up mourning.

I do not mourn that Obama is leaving and Trump’s time begins.

I do not mourn for a political party or the threat of another authoritarian era.

I don’t mourn that we are a bullying nation, but that we began as one.

I mourn what I wake up to: a world slivered by hate and oppression, a world of people that ask what they can do to further their own causes before anyone else’s.

I mourn every day that my boys have to learn protest because hate exists, and that they have to find a fire inside their bones too awakened to be ignored.

I mourn the lies that we build nations and systems upon for the sake of the powerful.

I mourn a world in which refugees are the outcast, everything utterly backward and unjust.

We mourn things because they affect us. They do not let go of us— the memories, the spirit, the life that we lost.

And so we mourn what we left in 2016, but we do not forget it.

And we let our mourning and our grief lead us into action, into what is healthy, into what makes us whole.

In Native culture, we do not neglect the past, but use it to usher us forward.

Whether 2016 was the worst or best year of your life, carry its memory with you, use it to make 2017 what it should be, to inspire you toward hope and a fuller version of yourself.

Do anything but forget, and engage anything but inaction.

 

 

 

 

Advent 2016: hope, grief, and Jesus unimagined

Years and years ago, advent came as a long season, generations of waiting and hoping for someone to rescue and repair brokenness.

But in those long and hard years, I imagine there was some anger and some grief, a little hope lost along the way but still held onto in the end.

This Advent feels different for me, as I watch the world, even the world of the church I’ve always known, show itself through different hues. I take the stories I’ve learned as a child mixed with the beautiful stories of my ancestors and other indigenous, stories of who Jesus has always been.

So I see the trajectory of the Christ-child, but the one who is for all people in all places, and not just the one we’ve revered in the white western church.

And I feel the dissonance of our political climate, something I know is foreign to the hope I hold.

So this Advent, I need Jesus to be everything that he is and nothing that I’ve always imagined him to be.

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The miracle of Christ is that he was born once and died once only to live again, and in his living there is always new grace, fresh shalom, a constant journeying into the spirit and heart of God and of God-Made-Flesh-and-Bone.

All those years of waiting had to be painful, but they were needed.

And today, we wait again, and it’s painful, and it’s needed. Our reality must be met with hope, met with peace and love and joy and grace, or the journey becomes blurred or forsaken altogether.

Our world hurts, from the dug up rivers and their protectors to the children of Syria to the oppressed in every corner, even those in our backyard. So Advent becomes an aching and painful grasp onto the chance at things being made new.

If Jesus has the capacity to create renewals of everything in our reality, isn’t it fitting for us to find renewal in our daily journeys?

Let this Advent season mean something different for your journey, and if that means finding the Christ child through your own child eyes, by all means do so.

No journey is wasted, and Advent is all about the long journey to the Christ child and all the journeying after.

But in the meantime, we can’t let our anger or grief dissipate into nothingness, nor do we bury it so deep that it eats away or seeds itself in us as revenge or bitterness.

No.

We take those human feelings and we let them work their way out of us in shalom-ways, in the way of hope, in the way of every good work. That is the way of the peaceful protestor, the way of the rock that stands still and stoic after years and years of rubble around him.

This is the way of Jesus, if the stories ring true, if shalom really is what he intended for it to be.

That is what we hold onto, what Advent gives us as we re-see the Savior child and re-imagine our own journeys of beginning and waiting again.