Grief isn’t a linear process
It’s twisty, curvy, circling back on itself as you experience it again and again. Grief is like waves washing up on a shore, they ebb and flow, moving changing, becoming rough at times, placid at others. Grief is a wound that takes time to heal and keeps getting reopened again, again, and again. Grief doesn’t play fair by any psychological rules. Depression, anger, acceptance, and denial are all mixed up, often coming all at the same time in a flood of emotional experience.
Grief is something that has to be gone through. If you distract yourself from it, you only delay it. If you try to circumvent it, it will come crashing through your put together facade and make you deal with the beast. The grief in your chest demands to be felt. You have to walk through the paths of grief in order to find healing rich and pure.
And healing is what we seek.
We look to the end of grief, towards happiness and nostalgia rather than the pain and sadness associated with the grieving process.
I find myself in the process of grieving church these days. These days, the wound has been reopened, and the flood of emotions is back. I miss church. I’m angry at the church. I’m depressed at the lack of church community I have in life. I accept that things will never be the same again. I grieve over the church and the life, maybe even the faith I once had.
Sometimes I think I can bargain, can find a way to go back to the way things were. I imagine leading worship again, delivering sermons, expounding on scripture. Then reality comes crashing into my daydream with another sex scandal, abuse accusation, and always the manifestation of marginalizing. As long as people that I love aren’t allowed to sit with me in the pews without judgment over their identity, gender, sexual orientation, and life choices, there will be a thorn in my side that prevents me from becoming rooted again. I grieve this.
I grieve what we have done to people, how the abusers are welcomed back to the pulpit with open arms while the victim, the survivor is pushed to the side and told that they must forgive. In other words, they must act like it never happened. Is it a wonder the abused and tattered don’t stay? When we force them to live in “harmony” with their abusers (who still hold power and authority), we force them to acknowledge that their pain doesn’t really matter to us.
Something happens, and my church wound is reopened, and I weep, wail, shake my fist at a God who has allowed his body to get this fucked up. Some days I bleed fresh because I am not yet healed. So, I grieve what once was, what it, what could be. And what could be possible makes me weep the hardest. I see what could be, how it could be. I dream about it still. But, I can only imagine. But oh, what could be! I grieve for what I fear will never be birthed in our congregations. The church seems so resistant to change, to open its arms to the hurting and marginalized, to those who are in the wilderness for one reason or another. Power seems to be with the affluent, the sexy, the white, straight, patriarchal men who have been running the church into the ground for far too long.
I don’t want a sexy pastor. I want a broken savior.
I want a savior who can grieve with me, who is acquainted with sorrows. I want a God who will bleed for the sins of the church. I want Jesus to be here, in the grief, the depression, the denial, the anger, the acceptance. I want the divine close because this hurts. It hurts to be reminded again and again of what once was that can never be again. It hurts to know that what you wish the church would metamorphize into will never come to pass. It hurts to bleed from these old wounds.
I need a savior that will overturn the pulpits to make room for the outcast in the sanctuary. I need a savior that will take the smarmy, religious attitudes that wound, ostracized, and rule, and display to them humility that is akin to God emptying Godself of divinity to make salvation for everyone a reality. I need a savior that can actually save me, where I am here in the wilderness, not by escorting me back to my place in the pews but rather by offering me resurrection and a hope that what could come to pass will be manifest.
So we grieve over the church. But we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. As bleak as it looks, a different world is possible. A different church is possible. But a true death has to occur. No more of this life support keeping alive the old ways, old attitudes, old power structures. It’s gonna hurt like hell, and we are going to lose people who can’t stand the refining fire. But there is the hope of resurrection, even for the church with all her scars, festering wounds, infections, and plagues. There is a different way. We could be part of it, you and I, as tattered and bruised as we are. As Tired and wounded as we are, we can be part of raising this body of Christ from the dead.
Hope and grief tend to intermingle. There’s no clear line where one ends and the other begins. So grieve, openly, loudly, and with all you’re heart, for when the tears are dry for now, you will find a way forward. You will grieve again, because this is a process, a journey, and we know grief isn’t linear. But neither is hope. Hope flies delicately like a butterfly riding a gust of wind, zigging, zagging, twisting, turning. Hope is a mighty oak in a hurricane, battered and creaking, swaying with the gale force winds, but staying rooted in the soil that has been watered by grief.
Let your grief out. Don’t bottle it up or let anyone tell you it’s wrong. Shake your fist at the heavens, cover yourself in sackcloth and ashes, drink to ease the pain. Whatever you have to do to get through this time of grief, I am with you and you have the permission to do it. Stay away from the church and all things labeled “Christian.” Close your Bible and dry up your prayers. Do what you need to do.
Know that on the other side, hope waits to resurrect you, breathe new life into your lungs, revive and inspire you.
With all the grief around us, we could use some inspiration.