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.



The Good Soil of Reconciliation

Once, there was a son who wished his father dead, took his money, and ran.

And once, there was a father who abandoned his child, a mother who said she was through, a friend who betrayed the most intimate secret.

Forgiveness actually means reaching into the depths of your pain, to do a kind of surgery there, a cutting and shifting and sealing.

I’ve carried around the sting of unsought reconciliation, where there are uncleaned corners of dust and dark.

And where there was once fruit, it is only barren space.

Forgiveness is pulling up the soil and the roots of the plant that’s in dire need of new life, and it’s planting that shoot in brand new soil.

There, we learn how to trust God to bring us healing and reconciliation, even if it doesn’t always lead to restoration.

Restoration is putting something back in its place, re-instating its former role in your life.

Forgiveness doesn’t always allow that, for all our seasons that change and our hearts that are constantly molding themselves into some new shape.

But the act of reconciliation, or conciliation, is that active surgery, that mediation, that hard and long work of forgiving over and over again.

In Jan Karon’s novel Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good, the main character of the book, Episcopal priest Father Tim, reflects on the long and hard process of forgiving his own father:

“Love is an act of endless forgiveness,” he says.

Since reconciliation is constant, we trust that in that constant opening, often painful, God is there.

God is freedom in forgiving from the deepest part of who we are, even past the pain of acknowledging our hurt.

He is the softener of hearts, and the builder of relationship.

In all of it, He is there, in the deep and painful process of pulling and tearing and re-planting in good soil.

And there, the light of the sun, the fresh drink, gives new life, the slow and steady reconciling reach toward heaven and toward each other.

There will be tears and screams, hard truths and pain.

But then there may be fruit.

The root of my deep pain may never be fully solved, fully reconciled, fully restored.

But what we choose to let happen inside of us, turning our pain to the light, that’s what keeps us human, keeps us breathing, keeps us reaching for all the wide open, holy spaces.

And oh, how we need them.

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Birthing Dreams

Throw a blanket over me.

You, with the overarching assumptions and created hate.

There is mockery and broken-record talk on your lips.

So throw your blanket over me.

I am under it with

the OTHER,

the THEMS,

the THEYS,

who protest in the streets like oppressed people would– because they are.

And you are acting cold in the above-water, lifeless stream.

But I need the warmth.

There in the womb of reconciliation it is peaceful, and all that flows between us brings me to them.

I’d invite you in, but come with arms open and weapons down, mouth silent and ears hearing.

Come under the blanket. It’s not always what it seems.

Come under the blanket. Let’s give birth to new dreams.