A friend asked me recently if I wrote a book what would it be about. I said, “I don’t know. Grief and other lovely things, I suppose.”
That is said without an ounce of sarcasm, by the way. I have been in a season of grief for a while—the kind of grief that was at first paralyzing and numbing, then painful, then just raw, and finally motivating. I have grieved people and a former life I loved. I have also grieved an illusionary future that felt very real, but was never to be.
“The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you’ll never have.” (Soren Kierkegaard)
In my living room sat two rocking chairs along with visions of two old people still in love drinking their tea by the fire, their Eros still alive while enjoying their twilight Storge. Yet, this is not how my life is playing out.
It is a continual letting go in deeper and deeper ways.
This very weird year (that just happened to coincide with my divorce) of people distancing and isolating and dividing over politics and perceptions of fear vs. courage has showed me in so many deep ways where the grief still hid. It showed me who my people really are. It showed me who was willing to walk with me, sit with me, hold space for me while I found myself and the great unbecoming of everything not truly me.
In the grief over lost loves and letting go there has also been a great embracing of who and what is true and good and beautiful. Would it be true to say that in a life well-lived there are all the feelings? Love and loss, grief and bliss, death and new life, peace and chaos, fear and courage, sin and redemption. Could I say I have really lived if it was only in victories and mountain tops, having never known what the valleys of defeat look like?
“The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart—it is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that befits mankind. It is not a collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice—it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask.” (Rich Mullins)
I am learning to trust that if God has allowed it in my life it is because it is either good or good for me, which comes to the same thing. The Eastern Church calls it Theosis. The West calls it Divinization. Maronites call it Mingling. Unbecoming my false illusionary self and being made and remade in God’s image, to participate with the divine will, to exchange my false identity for Jesus’ true identity.
Grief has its own raw loveliness, primarily because it is true. (Lies are never lovely and to live one is the most grotesque.) Grief is lovely in that a grief well-grieved leads to hope and healing and redemption and a deeper love than I knew I could experience before my life emptied itself. Who knew that a heart could actually become larger?
“Remove from me the way of lying, And grant me Your law graciously. I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me. I will run the course of Your commandments, For You shall enlarge my heart.” Psalm 119:29-32
Remembering the future that I’ll never have hurts less now as I learn to love the present. “Perhaps it is harder today. It is possible to fall in love every once in a while. Once is enough, after all…” (Albert Camus)