Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Glance Is Not Enough

The Grove - Grief
The ladies of Velvet Ashes are talking grief this week. Join us?

So grief. If you have read here at all, you're probably pretty aware that grief is a topic near, if not dear, to my heart. It tends to creep its way into my reflecting, my writing, my experiences. It makes me vulnerable and I often feel a little embarrassed that it plays such a huge part in my story. 

As a matter of fact, I wasn't going to write this week. I was going to slide an old post on grief in to the link up and join the conversation and declare myself grieving but all good. Which I mostly am right now.

But that's the thing about grief. I've said it a million times. Grief is a fickle, unpredictable friend. She rips you open to make a space for herself in your soul without asking your permission. She shouts so loud at times the rest of your life goes mute. Sometimes she prefers to play hide and seek, lurking in the dark corners and keeping you on edge for the moment she jumps out and startles you. Sometimes she just thumps a constant beat in your heart that irritates you until anger rises and spills out. And it often seems grief spends her days scraping you from the inside out with sand paper. Leaving you raw and sensitive to touch and feeling way too vulnerable for your own comfort.

We live grief in stages, that is well-documented. But I don't think we talk often enough about the difference between acute grief, the expected grief that follows an obvious loss, and chronic grief, the grief that builds up over a lifetime of losses, both great and small. The grief that is the lasting pain after a tragedy, the grief that is the cumulative pain of our brokenness, failed expectations, silent hurts and hard good-byes.

I feel like I have lived dogged by grief for a very long time now, her always at my heels, jumping and nipping at me. I have had great losses. The most profound being the tragic death of my son. But there have also been four miscarriages, the loss of my father, of my mother-in-law, and my older brother. Countless aunts and uncles who were big players in my story.

There have been job losses and financial failures and a life that has often not looked like the one I dreamed I'd live. There have been lots of hard goodbyes and friendships strained and wrong things said.

And they all add up to a burden of chronic grief that would easily threaten to turn from a dog at my heels to a wolf that would devour me if I let it. But I cannot let it. Because I believe the pain of the cross and the darkness of death are only gateways to the triumph of the resurrection and the crown of glory. And I must bear them until they are dissolved into eternity. An eternity where pain and death and sadness are lost in glory and every tear is wiped away.

But the question I am asking myself today is do I live like I believe that? 

I read a blog post totally unrelated to grief today, but the point at the end will not let me go. The blogger (I followed at tweet I cannot seem to backtrack, sadly) asked at the end of his post, "Are we only glancing at heaven while we live with our eyes on this world?"

And I can't stop asking it of myself. Because, friends, in this life of grief, whatever yours may be, there is one thing of which I am sure. A glance is not enough.

We will never bear this burden well, never find grace and tender mercy in the ache of grief, never find our footing and get back up when the cross drags us down with it, if we are only glancing at eternity when the skies darken with gloom or when we have a question to ask.

We have to live with eyes on eternity eternally. We have to adore God to find Easter in the clang of the nails. Adore. Is it even possible to glance at someone adoringly? No. Adoration is about absorption. We are wrapped up in someone when we adore. We are taken. We gaze, not glance.

We have to keep our gaze on eternity and long for heaven if we are to make it out of the grief of this world with grace still on our side and headed to something better. And even on my pretty good, I'm mostly all right day, I do so long to be headed for something better.

We are committed to spending an hour a day gazing on God's presence in the Blessed Sacrament in silent adoration. I admit I have faltered in being convinced this is a necessary commitment. Often regarding it as a worthwhile discipline, which it definitely is, but stopping short of giving myself over to it as necessary.

But as I turned this question around today, I felt a certainty rise within me. A glance is not enough. It is necessary to gaze upon the Lord, with our eyes fixed on heaven. We will not escape the scrape of grief in this life. But we can live through it, redeeming it with grace, growing through the pain. We can find the sacred space between here and heaven in the embrace.

But to do so, we must keep our eyes fixed on eternity. A glance is not enough.

Shoreditch street art from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Berit WatkinFlickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

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