Last week about this time, I began to understand that our lives were going to be drastically different. Although I had followed the news and the developments in China, it all still felt so far away. Last week about this time, things began to be canceled in large numbers. It wasn’t just the schools that were closing, but everything was beginning to shut down.
Last week about this time, I began to lament how I didn’t know it was the last time we would go to the park. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of parks all across the city being closed. Last week about this time, I began to lament how I didn’t know it was the last time we would go to storytime at the library or browse the shelves or play with the Duplo table. I hadn’t even considered the possibility of library branches across the city being closed. Last week about this time, I began to lament how I didn’t know it was the last time we would gather around the table at a restaurant with our family and friends or gathered outside in the fresh air and sunshine at one of the local breweries. I hadn’t considered the possibility of restaurant dining rooms being closed in order to limit the number of people who were gathered in one place.
Last week about this time, I began to lament again and again, “But I didn’t know it was going to be the last time. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.”
My heart and mind needed closure and there simply wasn’t any. It all happened so quickly. There’s something about this lament that is in the heartbeat of the Lenten season. If there is ever a season in the church calendar, this is it. We lament that we leave things left undone that could help bring about the kingdom of God here on earth. We lament the ways we contribute to the oppression and injustice that exists in our world. We lament that we are dust and to dust we shall return.
And the lamenting brings us to our knees, prostrate before our Creator asking for help and guidance.
Last week about this time. I didn’t know.
This week, I find myself a bit more comfortable on my knees lamenting and asking God for help for those in our medical profession who are on the frontlines; for those awaiting test results; for those separated and isolated from family; for all of us not knowing if we are carrying a virus that is very powerful.
Lord in your mercies, hear our laments.
The last few days have been overwhelming to say the least. There is a darkness and uncertainty that is surrounding and engulfing us. I don’t know how many times I have heard and uttered the phrase, “We’ve never experienced anything like this before.”
If you are feeling overwhelmed. That is ok. If you are feeling disappointed. That is ok. If you are feeling lost and confused. That is ok. If you are feeling grief that you have lost your previous way of life. That is ok.
These feelings are coming fast and furious in the midst of the darkness. They are demanding our attention and space in our hearts and minds even as we are trying to stay calm and hold onto our energy for the long journey that lies ahead.
And so when the sun sets and the darkness of begins to creep in, let all those feelings come. Let them wash over you in the darkness. Let the tears fall and the anger out because darkness is difficult. Darkness that we know will lead to light. Darkness that seems to never lead to light. Darkness always asks us to be vulnerable and needy.
Darkness always reminds us that we cannot do this alone. May God grant you the courage you need in the midst of this darkness that reveals our vulnerability, our grief, and our needs.
This weekend, the kids helped me repot our window plants. I have two window plants that live on the window over the kitchen sink looking out to our backyard. One is a Christmas Cactus and one is a budding African Violet. The Christmas Cactus started blooming right on time as the Advent season began. Most of the year, this plant rests dormant with very little to show until these vibrant blooms start to appear.
After we repotted the Christmas cactus and I returned it to its place on the window sill, I noticed that through the window our Bradford Pear tree’s leaves were flashing the last brilliant colors of life before it rested in the dark and cold of winter. This picture of hope blooming even as death waited behind was the perfect picture of this Advent season.
Hope and death rest together during this season. The short days and dark nights remind us of the short time we have here on earth. The changing leaves remind us that death does indeed bring new life. The blooms of this Christmas Cactus remind of the hope of the Divine incarnate, something we have been waiting all year to remember and something we still hope will come again.
Hope and death. Light and dark. Cold and warmth. All pressing against each other during this season of waiting for the Christ Child. May our eyes and hearts be open on this journey.
This past week was one filled with the joys of birthdays and the grief of services of remembrance. For us, that fell on the same day, our four-year-old’s actual birthday. The beauty and the grief of life and death juxtaposed in one twenty-four hour period. And this is how it is. Life and death live within us all the time. That divine breath and our dustiness residing together in our physical beings. We walk through our days holding both hope and grief. At times they fight within us as we wrestle to find space for both and sanctuary to let them sit together never sure which one will come out on top.
The more I talk to people, the more I realize how much grief people are holding sometimes trying to fit into a box to put away for another time sometimes trying to send it away so that it doesn’t linger or pop up. The more I talk to people, the more I say grief doesn’t go away. You don’t go through grief. You don’t come out of grief. You become grief and then grief becomes you.
You and grief can’t get away from each other. You integrate into one being with a deeper love and appreciation for moments and relationships, for safety and belonging. This loss and hurt of grief make us deeper and fuller people.
People who love and live with gratitude and intention for we always hold both life and death within us.