I’m slipping. I can see myself slipping. A little escapist behavior here. A little denial there. Pain everywhere. If I don’t stop this slide right now I will end up right back where I was before sabbatical last year. But it hurts. And that little bit of oblivion brings a false, but welcome, sense of comfort and albeit temporary release from pain. So I let myself slip.
My friend Duncan, a therapist and spiritual director, warned me, with a pained look on his face, “You are going to experience profound grief.” He’s a prophet. Now I know what “profound” feels like. It hurts. It hurts bad.
For 2 weeks now I’ve been reviewing the past 30 years of working in this organization. Recounting grievances and griefs. Regretting things left undone or things that were my undoing. Reminding myself of mistakes. Rehearsing “what ifs” and “what fors” and “what was that all abouts”. I know it’s not the whole truth. But it’s the truth as I see it right now. All these griefs visit me in vague wisps of emotion and faint glimmers of faces, or with sudden horror and face-slapping realization.
In church one Sunday, as I was lost in my own reverie and reminiscing, it came to me. I have been trying to escape the pain of grief. To numb it. To pray it all better, believing that if God were truly in control or I was really in God’s will I wouldn’t hurt. But that’s not true. There’s no escaping it: dying hurts.
I’m in the process of dying:
to work I am competent at,
to people I know and love,
to a church community that I respect,
to a city I enjoy,
to a house we’ve made a home,
to living near my mom,
to being in my own culture,
to my plans for my future and my family’s future,
to knowing where the next paycheck is coming from,
to life as I’ve known it.
If I were physically dying of a medical condition, I would expect to hurt. But somehow, I didn’t make the connection.
I want the life equivalent of morphine, thank you very much.
But seeing this process for what it is – the pain of dying to one kind of life so I can live a new one – helps ease the pain. There’s a purpose. And there’s an end to it. But not today. Today I’m still dying. Today I hurt. But I choose not to postpone the pain knowing that the quicker I die to all of this, the sooner I can live again.
I’m sure I’ll still slip now and then. My memory is short. But God is merciful. He knows just what I’m going through. After all, He’s been through the whole death and pain thing Himself! And lived to tell about it.
So bring it on.
Healing without grief doesn’t happen.
Grief without support and new loves doesn’t happen either.
Safe People, Henry Cloud & John Townsend, pg. 153
Make a 15 minute appointment with God.
At your appointment, talk to God like you would a doctor: tell Him where it hurts. Then sit still and listen while God gives you His diagnosis of the pain.
Is it something that needs healing? Ask for healing in Jesus’ Name.
Is it something that requires a change of heart or behavior on your part? Ask for forgiveness in Jesus’ Name and power from the Holy Spirit to change.
Is it something that is being put to death for your good? Ask for eyes to see God in the process and a willing heart to receive the new thing God has for you.