The following piece is copied from my personal blog…
I woke up this morning feeling sad. It was a dark heavy blanket that settled in over me, it’s been floating down upon my soul for a few days now. What is it? Where is it coming from? Another week shut in. Oh, I go out to the grocery store once a week or so. I may take a walk every now and then. But this shelter in place is starting to get to me. It’s just this coronavirus thing, and it’s getting to me. I am so tired of feeling stuck, not being able to travel, not being able to gather in groups. As a pastor, it is really getting to me that we cannot gather together for church services. I long to be in the midst of people singing songs of praise together, in the same building. My wife and I live in a parsonage which is attached to the church. I am reminded daily of this loss every time I walk into the empty sanctuary. I am reminded again every Sunday when I get up to preach in front of my phone as it records me giving my sermon on Facebook live.
I am grieving. Let’s just call it what it is. I am grieving loss. Paul reminds me to “be grateful in all circumstances.” (1Thess 5:18) I can’t be grateful forthis, but I can be grateful in this. I believe that what the scripture is telling me here is not just a mental ascent to gratitude, rather, I am challenged to do something; to be something that looks like gratitude. Franciscan Brother, David Steindl-Rast reminds us that to be grateful in all things, is to look for the opportunities that each thing provides.
Loss, any kind of loss, brings grief. One of the opportunities presented to us by this COVID-19 thing is the opportunity to grieve. To grieve or to lament is a powerful force for transformation. The Bible is full of examples of lament. Not the least of which is an entire book named for this practice. Too often we want to rush past the difficult stuff and get on with good things. Scripture reminds us of the very real need to grieve the loss before we can move forward into what’s next.
Many of us have had losses in our lives, maybe even recently, but because of our desperate drive to succeed many have not really allowed themselves to lament. Consequently, every new stage of life; every new move into another chapter, has bought with it the weight of the previous chapter. Every hurt and loss shapes our lives in some way. If we don’t ever allow ourselves to grieve those losses they end up affecting us in negative ways. During this season we are in, we have an opportunity to grieve our losses. We can lament the loss of the way we expected things to be. Our Spring and maybe even our Summer are becoming losses. We’ve lost plans for gatherings and trips; lost plans for celebrations. Let the experience of feeling these losses be the impetus for our grieving. We must not let this time pass by without allowing ourselves some time to grieve. This opportunity to grow through grief may be the greatest gift this season of shelter in place has brought us. As we grieve the current losses let this lead us into other losses we’ve not allowed ourselves time to grieve. Let yourself feel the hurt, the anger, the frustration; let yourself cry. Take some time to write down a lament. Read the psalms of lament and use the words of the psalmist as a starting place for your own lament. Get it out of your soul onto paper where it can be seen. In addition to writing it down you can speak your pain out loud to God. Find a place to cry; to shout; to scream at God, He can take it. Imagine yourself as a child beating on your daddy’s chest, and when you’ve exhausted yourself with your complaint, let him hold you close to him. Don’t rush into comfort. Feel the sadness, feel the pain, but also, express the sadness and the pain. Our supposed need to avoid pain and sadness has led us into all manner of anesthetizations. These in turn lead to all kinds of addictions.
Freedom and mercy are available as you let yourself grieve. There is mercy, grace and comfort in the very midst of the grief. Jesus reminds us; “Blessed are they who mourn.” It is only when we allow ourselves to experience mourning that we are able to feel the comfort of God. Let him comfort you, for it is in his comfort that you find grace to move forward.
On the other side of this there is hope. We don’t know what the future brings, we are on a pilgrimage here on this earth. Pilgrimage entails walking with a holy unknowing that requires trust in the One who guides us. Allow yourself to grieve; to mourn; to lament. You can be assured that the one who holds the future is holding you.