Grief

Grief is one of those many faceted things that is kind of hard to define because it’s a process that has a starting point, a middle and no end.

I used to think that grief was an intense period of sadness that one experienced during a loss. I did in fact experience that aspect of grief to be sure, 12 years ago today when cops showed up at our door with a grief councilor to inform us that my brother was killed in a car accident. That aspect of grief is very real but the fatal flaw in my thinking was believing that I would experience that part of grief for a time and that grief would then end.

Most of what we experience is long, dull, mind numbingly constant and the very opposite of dramatic. It’s lack of drama is so pronounced and yet I cannot think of a word to best describe it. It involves going through the day to day of life while at the same time trying to reconstruct a puzzle with more than a few of the pieces gone.

It never quite looks right does it?

Yet we have to get on with the business of living. Which we do though never quite in the same way.

I have believed wrongly in the past that I don’t grieve well but at my therapist appointment today I was assured that I was actually really good at grieving. In fact the things that I sometimes secretly and sometimes not so secretly wish for, to be able to move through life unaffected by the sadness and the gravity of the loss I’ve experienced, would indicate that I wouldn’t be grieving well. To go through life without the sting of the emotion would be no life at all but sometimes the emotions are entirely too intense and I don’t feel that I express them with any kind of proper social filter.

I guess that makes me a bonafide expert on grief but there are no medals or Nobel prizes
to be awarded for this. There is only the mind numbing constant day to day getting on with life without some of the people that I most loved.

Even now, 12 years later it aches like an infected tooth that you cannot help but touch with your tongue. I’d ask for Novocain but that would just make me fiddle with it more. What I realy want, what I long for is the one thing that cannot be provided. It is that longing that pushes me toward the cross. Jesus longed for this world to be fixed without his having to die an excruciating death, he longed for the curse to never have happened, he longed for a people who would love him freely and without hesitation but that was the one thing that this world would not, could not provide.

Have you ever wanted something so bad that it killed you? God did.

Because he died in the place I should have occupied I hope, and believe, and trust that someday I’ll see my brother again. I hope, and believe, and trust that this life isn’t all there is, that the things that get so violently cut short by the brokenness of this earth can begin again, and this time sin will have no hold on the outcome.

I miss my brother.

 

Christian Existentialism

I’ve been mulling around a lot of thoughts in my head about existentialism and how I as a Christian reconcile the way the world is with the faith I hold. I am a student of philosophy, I enjoy reading about and studying different viewpoints but I don’t think that’s what attracts me to existentialism, I think the way that my life has played out is what draws me to it.

When I talk about existentialism I am talking about the way that we view the world. How we as individuals deal with the absurdity of life. Things happen that defy explanation and we all have to find ways to deal with those events. This is what is called existential dread and there are 3 classically defined responses

1: Suicide. Every successful suicide has taken place because the victim has felt an overwhelming sense of the meaninglessness of life. They live out the realization that Solomon writes about in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes.

What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

2: is Nihilism an acceptance of the meaninglessness of life. It is from this viewpoint that the New Atheist movement(Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens et al) has taken it’s root. Life has no meaning and no purpose so in order to avoid suicide one must assign his or her OWN meaning and purpose. It is also from this 2nd viewpoint that our biggest anxieties have grown out of. Before the 19th and 20th centuries anxiety disorders were simply unheard of. But in comes the enlightened age where more and more secular thinkers feel that we know enough about science that we can do away with thoughts of the divine. Religion is thought of as nothing more than a fairy tale told to make us feel good about our lot in life and everything in this world has come about by pure cosmic chance. Ernest Becker says this:

“Man is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual, up in the stars and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body that once belonged to a fish and still carries the gill-marks to prove it. His body is a material fleshy casing that is alien to him in many ways—the strangest and most repugnant way being that it aches and bleeds and will decay and die. Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with atowering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever.”

3: Spirituality. Faith, not certainty pushes us toward this 3rd response. The Nihilist would claim that this is only the human assigning meaning where there is none but Kierkegaard, the father of existensialism, defines it more about finding the ONLY thing that holds meaning in an otherwise meaningless world.

How, then, shall we face the future? When the sailor is out on the ocean, when everything is changing all around him, when the waves are born and die, he does not stare down into the waves, because they are changing. He looks up at the stars. Why? Because they are faithful; they have the same location now that they had for our ancestors and will have for generations to come. By what means does he conquer the changeable? By the eternal, one can conquer the future, because the eternal is the ground of the future, and therefore through it the future can be fathomed. What, then, is the eternal power in a human being? It is faith. What is the expectancy of faith? Victory-or, as Scripture so earnestly and so movingly teaches us, that all things must serve for good those who love God.

In all worldviews there MUST be at least one eternal component. Either the universe itself is eternal or there must exist something outside of the universe that brought it into being. I understand God to be that agent. It’s not about my ability to be able to define God or explain how he did this or that, my answers would prove futile to those asking the questions, my only job is to trust and to have faith in that which I have found to be eternal.

So when faced with the absurd, or what might be better defined as the meaninglessness of life, when people I love die or when horrible things happen I can see the separation from that which is eternal(God) and that which is not(us, and this world) God, whoever or whatever he is cannot be defined by terms created by broken, non-eternal beings.  I feel that the reason that so many atheists are unsatisfied with the idea of faith is because they have yet to let go of their stranglehold on the material world. “SHOW me, PROVE to me” are their requests, because to admit that there was something that couldn’t be defined, scrutinized and understood is to admit that the world really doesn’t begin and end with the human and the material worldview. It is to relinquish  the throne with which we can sit on and the alter with which we can put our material possessions and pursuits on. It’s not only out of pride that we do this it is also out of fear, fear that “we’ve got it all wrong” fear that this God of which is being spoken of is nothing more than a tyrant. SO better to believe that this is all there is than to be faced with that possibility. So we live and die and our anxiety grows.

 

But the more I read scripture the more I am convinced that the God of this universe is NOT a tyrant, he is a lover. He is desperate to woo his creation like a courting male wooing his future bride. He wishes nothing more than to take this world into his arms and love us and enjoy us. It is only when one lives within that worldview that the anxiety and dread is erased. I will bet my entire life on it.

Someday Sunday

This life’s not getting worse

but it’s certainly no better

It is what it is,. Small moments of happiness and blessing in a world infected by sin

Broken

Marveled by the rate of decay some of us try to outrun it

While others pretend it’s not there

We distract ourselves with tasks and stuff

All of which rust before our very eyes

while we ourselves fall apart

I don’t trust the plan but I trust the one who made the plan

and that is enough for me, it HAS to be enough for if he is wrong and he didn’t raise from the dead than we are worse than bastards, It’s not that we don’t know who our father is we don’t have one

So we strive and toil in a home not our own looking for small moments of happiness and blessing in a world infected by sin

Last night we sat in a room and prayer for someone that most of us didn’t know because worst case scenarios sometimes do happen.

We huddled together and wept and spoke words to a God we know is there and whom we trust with our lives because he has told us that he has a plan

but I don’t trust the plan, but I trust the one who made the plan

The plan includes moments of agony and suffering. The plan has no provision for worst case scenarios, The plan promises that in this wold we WILL have trouble, so we strive and toil in a home not our own looking for small moments of happiness and blessing in a world infected with sin.

The one who made the plan has already defeated every worst case scenario imagined. I don’t need to trust the plan because I have a father who has gone before me and understands suffering better than I ever could. I have a father who has grieved more than I ever will, I have a father who will provide more than I will ever need.

This world is no worse or better

But He has overcome the world and someday, Sunday, I too will overcome