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.

Everything to Everyone: the micro and macro heart of God

 

Is it possible that God is just as macro as He is micro, just as infinite as He is closed-ended?

He is who He is– limitless– but transforms Himself to be who I need Him to be right now, today.

He may be mother and father and something totally other–

all things to all people.

He is not bound or restricted, held to our standard of what can be done and how many miracles are allowed–

no.

But He fulfills every need nonetheless,

sustains every heart and gives life where life is needed.

So how do we stretch ourselves?

Who do we become in our complete micro-ness, in our inability to be grand and mighty?

We pray, “Holy Spirit, fill my spaces and transform them into Kingdom.”

And something happens moment after moment, day after day.

Something shifts inside of us, and we are capable of more,

astounded by beauty,

lifted in spirit

to those high places where we see the world through

a new, clearer lens.

If God can truly be just as micro as He is macro, that means our belonging to Him is fuller than it was yesterday,

and our posture before Him should be so much freer, calmer, lighter.

We can look up and out and around and say, I am taken care of,

and it is true from the tiniest frosted leaf to the grandest sunset at day’s end.

It is true from the working hours of the ant to the beaming smile of a great-grandmother.

It is true from the darkest corner of our hearts to the brightest hope that hope can bring.

My, how secure we are, indeed.

And so we pray,

For whatever today was, Spirit,

You were there,

circling in and out and around us.

We all come because of our need–

we all have holes that need filling,

wounds that need tended to.

And You meet us before we utter a word–

You meet us before our feet touch the ground at our bedside,

before the sun rests her rays on us through the window panes.

You meet us before we know that there is breath in our lungs

or a beating heart in our chests.

You are everything to everyone.

Oh, the goodness of You. 

Amen.

The Evidence of the Story

“…these (stories) are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” –John 20:31

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My whole life is the journey to belief, though I have not seen. My whole being is stretched to try to understand Jesus’ presence in the world, though I cannot touch his nail marks.

But what is the proof of His presence?

Love.

Peace.

Forgiveness.

Humility.

Presence.

Truth.

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Jesus,

Your life was marked by these stories, by these stories we tell about you, the evidence of your peace poured out over people.

And so, if my life is to be marked by believing though I cannot see you, I manifest your spirit through good.

Through listening.

Through making peace.

In all things.

And there, your presence is my reality.

And there, Holy Spirit, you do your work, and the love of Jesus becomes tangible again–

not in his original body, but in my body, in the body of my children, in the body of the beggar down the road, in the body of every act of forgiveness, in the body of processing peace towards the other, the stranger, in the body of Love doing its urgent and holy work.

There, Jesus is just as real as he ever was, and we commune with him, sinner-saints that we are.

There, we gather at the table, where feet are washed, where sins are forgiven, where bread is broken and wine is poured out.

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There, our humanity meets his humanity, and salvation is born.

Hallelujah and amen.

A Lesson on Listening: when groans are louder

I love that the human heart can experience a wide array of emotion.

Lately, I’ve felt the inner groanings that go beyond just sadness, but go deep, and are constant, with moments of exceptional strength.

They are guttural and piercing, archaic and mighty within me.

It seems that war wages all around me: our theological arguments, our struggle to remain whole, our fight for belief at all cost, our propensity to bicker and bite at every opportunity, and especially, hiding behind the shield of a computer screen or Facebook timeline.

When I am at home with the boys throughout the week, I feel like a vacuum, sucking up the tiny, sharp shards of these encounters around me in order to digest them for myself.

And I can hardly bear it anymore.

And that’s when the sighings of the deep are heard and felt within me. It’s like that churning in the very back of the belly button, and it just can’t be ignored.

So this morning as I drove into Atlanta, I saw the people– countless, at eight in the morning on a Saturday. And I sang from my car and tried to pour the Spirit over myself, over all of us; I tried to beg Him to be near and louder than I tend to let Him be.

I don’t know what to do with the groanings, except surrender. I know the fruit that comes from the same Spirit, and perhaps He’s asking me to participate in that, so that the groaning may turn to laughter, so that I may remember His holiness and peacefulness.

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Some quotes that struck me this morning:

It is more important to remember God than it is to breathe. –Gregory of Nazianzus

 

Blessed are you, Lord, who dwell in the heights and yet have chosen to live within a human heart, giving it joy and lifting it up to the heights alongside you, to live with you there, to praise you in the heights and in the depths. Glory to you, who have given such wonders to a  heart that your own hands made from the very dust of the earth.    –Sahdona the Syrian

 

Cleanse the mirror of your soul and the single light will merge with you, manifesting itself to you as trinity. Then take the light down into your heart, and there you will see the Living God. –John of Dalyatha

 

Man is a little soul carrying around a corpse. -Marchus Aurelius

My birthday is just around the corner, and as I took time this week to write a large number of thank-you cards, I remembered what it means to be loved and celebrated. I remembered what it means to be cared for, what it means to be blessed in the midst of a messy kitchen and crazy little boys and full schedules.

So while I really don’t know what to do with this deep voice, I must let the groanings groan, and remember that God gave me breath to breathe. I remember that He gives me the capability to praise Him in the heights and in the depths, that His light has buried itself deep in me, and that this light breathes life into the corpse of a body that I carry.

Hallelujah and Kingdom Come.

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