I had the privilege of speaking at my Church, Elevation, today. For anyone who is interested in the text, or were not able to attend, I thought I’d re-post it here.
My Pastor friend was speaking on Isaiah 61 from the Bible. This Scripture talks about God’s desire to turn our mourning into dancing, to rebuild ancient ruins, and comfort the brokenhearted.
The following is my response to my Pastor’s inquiry about what my own mourning experience has been like for me. You may recognize some pieces in this that were taken from my initial blog post, 9 months later. New symbolism has also been introduced in what I find a meaningful allegory of baptism. I owe credit again to one of my teachers, the psychologist who is also a retired pastor. It was he who first brought the striking allegory to my attention.
I met with one of my teachers not too long ago who asked me how many sides the original baptismal pools had.
“Four?” I guessed.
“Eight.” He answered. Then he asked me why it would have eight sides. We had previously been talking about the seven days of creation, so he initiated my response by asking, “What happens on the eighth day?”
To which I responded, “We begin again.”
Hence the symbolism behind the eight sided baptismal pool. Baptism itself represents a rebirth. It marks the start of a new journey.
9 months ago my husband died the day before our daughter’s second birthday.
9 months. The length of time it takes to have a baby. The length of time for new life to be formed and emerge from the darkness into light. Like pregnancy, these past 9 months have brought with them a lot of changes. Clues that nudge me, dropping hints (often quite noticeable ones) that life really did change when my husband passed away. Something significant did happen. My life will never be the same. Even my body has experienced the effects of grief.
When my husband died I did not imagine that “dancing” could come from my mourning. But as time went on I saw new growth within myself, and in my spiritual journey. I began to wonder, what will this new life bring? Where will my journey take me. How will it change me? How will it affect those around me? Will it be beautiful?
Like a baptism, through the experience of my husband’s death, I have broken through the waters. This loss has given way to a rebirth.
This same teacher recently told me that the darkness of life can be good. It is part of a natural cycle, like day and night both the light and dark contain purpose. In the womb, in the dark, a baby grows. They can not see. They do not know what lies ahead for them. They are vulnerable, fragile, incredible emergent beings. New life is forming and it is all taking place in the dark. Then one day, after labour and pain, that new life is welcomed into the light.
The grief is my labour. The loss is my pain. But the hope of new life, and what God can do with it, is gain.
I am not who I was. I am changed. Re-arranged. I can not be the same as I was and I am okay with that.
After the dark comes the light. Even in death there is life.
When I was done, my Pastor friend asked me whether I had seen God at work in my mourning. Had I experienced joy? How had God been present to me?
I responded with the following:
In C.S. Lewis’ “A Grief Observed“, his journals from when his wife died to cancer, he says:
“From the rational point of view what grounds has Helen’s (Joy’s) death given me for doubting all that I believe? Should it, for a sane man, make quite such a difference as this? No. And it wouldn’t for a man whose faith had been real faith. The case is too plain. If my house has collapsed at one blow it is because it was a house of cards.”
I use that reference to answer the question because my husband’s death has highlighted for me that house of cards. In the past my relationship with God was based a lot on my feelings, and since Neil’s death I really have to ask myself how much of those feelings were God, and how much of them were me and the cultural schools of thought I had grown accustomed to believing. I “felt” God, but my life did not resonate with who I was created to be. There was a disconnect. Now, I would say that I “feel” God less, but I don’t doubt He is still at work in me. I don’t know how He is working, yet I am finally more the person I believe I was created to be. That gives me joy.
My hope is that on the other side of this grief journey, my connection with God will line up with what resonates in my deepest self, and the two will become one and the same. My “house of cards” was blown over, but I am trusting that God is using this situation to help me build a better house, to give me a deeper, truer joy.