19 June 2014
I drove by a scene much like this one this evening. Kids running around in a jumping fountain...shoots of water squirting up from the ground at seemingly random intervals and in seemingly random locations.
Grief is a lot like these fountains. I never quite know where or when it's gonna pop up...where or when it's going to gush out. Last night at small group was one of those places and times. I was asking the group to pray for the Muslim world in it's current state of what seems a bit like chaos from this vantage point. I'm reading Malala's story, and my heart strings are tugged by the realities that have been her life, yes, but I don't usually weep when my heart strings are tugged by books I'm reading or articles I read online. I think that was just the release of the flood gates. My parents left town on tuesday for a few weeks of rest and relaxation on the west coast. I think with their departure, my heart relaxed a bit, and so tugs on it's strings made bigger ripples than usual...to mix about 7 metaphors ;)
The group lovingly asked what was going on, as the tears continued to stream down my face as others continued to share and request prayer, etc. I shrugged my shoulders. I had no idea. I've talked and thought about it since and I think it's just how grief works. I've heard others say this is just how it is - it hits you when it hits you. Unlike the jumping fountains though, grief does not seem to elicit the shrieks of joy that seem common in the children running around getting soaking wet, whether they were dressed for the occasion or not ;) Alas.
There's this thing among Christians that we don't talk about. Well, we do talk about it, but it's all in the name of spiritual growth and edification. We talk about what "grieving well" looks like, what "suffering well" looks like. Missionaries talk about "healthy cultural acquisition" or "good language learning technique" or "good goodbyes." So a gold standard is set - for better or worse. For better: they provide us a guide along the way as wisdom from those who have gone before. For worse: they just allow us to judge one another - measuring each other against these standards. Same with grief and suffering. I know, because I've done it to other people. Sizing up their emotional and spiritual life from what I perceive on the outside. Now, I'm wishing for more grace that I've in times past given to others. When it comes to grief, I've decided I only know how to process feelings I'm experiencing. It has done me no good to try to talk about things I think I should feel or think others think I should feel. It does, on the other hand, a world of good to go get ice cream with a couple friends after I fall apart and try to figure out where that was coming from and what it was really about, and reflect on whether I'm doing what I can to engage my emotions from day to day in a healthy way.
People make off handed comments about how they think our family is or is not dealing with the current realities of mom's illness and this season of life. Maybe you think we are putting on "happy faces" too often - which means you think there is a way our faces should look instead. Maybe you think I should cry more - maybe you think the jumping fountain effect is just a because I'm suppressing all my emotions and just need to "deal with them" more...or better. Maybe you think when I'm at a party, I should rise to the occasion and not be so glum - it's not about me after all. The thing is, my grief seems to know no schedule or social norms, and neither does this terminal illness. All I can say is that I think I'm not alone in the jumping fountains.