Grief on a Lovely Saturday Morning
November 9, 2008
I took our dog, Piper, for a walk this morning. We live in a suburban “master-planned community” that has an extensive network of trails tucked in among the hilly neighborhoods, which is a little silly, but I have to say, it’s pretty nice to quickly leave sidewalks and get onto trails surrounded by trees and shrubs and “nature.” Anyway, I headed out and began thinking and praying. It was a lovely morning, slightly cool but it was apparent that the sun was going to quickly warm things up. The sky was a deep shade of blue with not a cloud in sight. In the distance I could see the Pacific Ocean, so clearly that I could even spot a tiny white sailboat. Amidst all this beauty I could sense I needed some grieving time.
The Psalms talk a lot about souls waiting in silence for God. There are lots of references to “still my soul” in His presence. This feels hard to articulate, but the in the last few years I have come to associate this idea with grief. There are so many things that bug me and exasperate me in my everyday life. I don’t have a major loss or sadness that I’m dealing with, but I find that if I want to experience a real sense of God’s presence and nearness, I have to grieve these little annoyances.
Some examples of grief from yesterday’s walk: The weather. (It’s beautiful, but too warm for this time of year.) The great gap between how I want to behave and think, and the reality of how I behave and think (I am impatient, demanding, selfish.) The way I want my children to be, and how they are. The things I want Dave to do, and what he really does. Nothing horrible, but not in line with how I think he should be. The world and the political situation. (If only everyone thought of things the way I do, we wouldn’t be in such a mess!) Certain friendships and how they have crumbled in certain ways recently. All these little troubles, when I take the time to reflect on them and be sad about them, show me something bigger. They reveal to me that I have got the created order of the universe all out of whack. I somehow think that I am the source of life. That I am the judge of how things ought to go. I want to call the shots. I want my own little world to revolve around my wishes and hopes and dreams. And this is insidious enough “fallen” thinking that it requires a daily confession. A daily grief. A daily surrendering of my will to the Real Creator of Life, Source of Life, Rightful Judge of the world. And when I name these griefs for what they are, they uncover a quietness in my soul. The grief peels back the hard crust on my soul and reveals the soft, humble, expectant part underneath. The part that can gratefully receive God’s grace and pity for my messed up thinking. The part that sees myself rightly as His Creature. I am reminded of Orual’s statement in C.S. Lewis’ Til We Have Faces, when she meets the god of the mountain, “You are Yourself the answer. Before Your face all questions melt away.”
And once I’ve done my grieving, I am always astonished and grateful for the peace and comfort I feel. And I’m amazed by my sudden desire to pray for other people, to lift up their concerns to my gracious Father. My soul has been stilled, and got back into rightness with Him. And all of this, paradoxically, is born out of my grief.