Monday, June 9, 2014

Grief Pondered

Teaching Us How to Grieve

A few weeks ago, our dear friends lost their adult son in a tragic car accident. The young man had a wife and a 2-year-old boy, who still doesn't understand why daddy does not come home. He also left behind a mother and father and sisters and brothers-- all people who loved him in this tight-knit family.

The manifest transparency and courage of these friends grieving deeply is something to behold. It is nothing short of an honor to be near. It is sacred, almost, like peeking in on a cataclysm and a glory.

There are many ways to grieve. We have watched our friends do it well. They grieve openly and frankly in a way that strips aside all conventions and flatly proclaims questions, faith, and courage. They cry during the stories, laugh between the tears, and say, "I believe, help my unbelief." They turn from their tears and encourage another. In the end -- whether they know it at this fresh point of their sorrow or not -- they are teaching us how to grieve and how to collapse onto God.

Not a Tame Lion

Watching a great sorrow up close puts all of my barely-quashed, dark fears on display -- a flickering picture newsreel. I want to look away from my own fears. But when I see someone suffer, I am turned inside out and my insides are revealed. The worst can happen, and does. It's true, and we can't pretend anymore: Here there be monsters.

I believe that this one of God's methods of forcing me to put feet to my faith. He is calling my bluff.

As Mr. Beaver says, "Aslan is not a tame lion." God himself is not safe. He is not a coddling God. This faith we have -- this never was the safe option. At least not now, not with respect to the flesh.

Faith -- believers know this -- is not an opiate, but a cold splash of water on the face. Faith does not allow you to muffle your fears in nice phrases and memories and that "The Circle of Life" song. Faith says, "All is as God has decreed," and "yet I will praise Him." Even a tiny mustard seed of faith is a gift, because we surely could not generate it ourselves.We only need that tiniest of gifts, and He gives it freely.

This faith is not safe, but it is real and true. And part of that realness and trueness is that Death does not have the last word.

Grief Pondered: At the Back of All the Stories

Good News is only really good when the first set of news is really bad.

I just finished "Til We Have Faces" by CS Lewis. I read it in college and missed its depth then. (I kept worrying over the mechanics of the metaphor.)

Expressly, it is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. However, in the end it is about Psyche's sister, who is an aged monarch of an ancient kingdom.

Telling her strange story for posterity, an old queen seeks to make a water-tight case against the gods. She lays out her case against them -- their cruelty, their hidden-ness, and jealousy, and teasing trickery. But as she writes, something happens. We figure it out only slightly before she does. She realizes the case she is making is against herself.

Righteously indignant, she finds she was the cruel and unjust one, after all.

Coolly logical and academic, she finds that she was the liar and deceiver, after all. (The worst lies she tells are to herself.)

Pragmatic and effective as a ruler who has built a solid empire, she finds her kingdom will pass to a distant relative she hardly knows, after all.

Meanwhile, the One behind the stories was always drawing this withered queen to meet Him. To show her that truth never was found in shrines and magic, or book learning, or politics. It was always, only, and forever found in Him. The story was about Him. All the stories are about Him.

He wants to meet her. He will meet her. He comes to her. 

"You have seen the torches grow pale when men open the shutters and broad summer morning shines in?"

As she reflects on the events of her life and her grappling with the gods,

"I knew that all of this had been a preparation. Some far greater matter was upon us...'He is coming,' they said....The earth and stars and sun, all that was or will be, existed for His sake."

Our God is personal. He is intimate. He is far too much concerned with loving us to let us idle along forever in indolent accusations, or in the opiates of endless logical disputes or smoky mysticism or worldly pragmatics.

Christianity has laws, but it is not a religion of laws and rules. Christianity has miracles and mysteries, but it is not a religion of magic and smoke. Christianity is reasoned and wise, but it is not a religion for the proud academic and all-knowing logician. (The Greeks seeks wisdom, the Jews look for miracles. But we His people, both Jew and Gentile, seek something else. Him, crucified. It's a stumbling block.)

Christianity is a most intimate love story of a Groom for His bride, a Father for his child, a King for his subject, a Doctor for his patient.

Communion with Christ is a most uncomfortable and invasive surgery, a nakedness, a subjection, and a knowing.

We're sick and oozing sore, and He is our Doctor. We are weak and defenseless, and He is our protecting King. We are lost and crying out, and He is our shepherding Father.

We are ugly, unloved, wrinkled, bitter, barren, sour, and cast-off. We wear a hood to hide our ugliness. And He is our beloved Groom, making us radiant, smooth, strong, healthy, and whole. He removes our masks and shrouds, looks in our face, and clothes us in white.

"Let the bones you have crushed rejoice." Jesus, lover of my soul.

Just one last thing the old queen learns: He doesn't answer to her. She answers to Him.