My wife asked me the other day, “How does a person process grief?” You’d think that as a chaplain, walking beside and with those who are grieving, I would have had an answer in that moment. Maybe because it was the last, lingering thought before sleeping and I was further along than she, or maybe because there is just no easy answer to a question like this… it goes to say, I didn’t have anything satisfying to give in return.
Maybe the question didn’t sit with me. How do I process grief? Is this different than asking, how do I grieve? I really don’t think it is a matter of processing grief as much as just grieving. Processing is talking about it, writing about it, thinking about it, sharing it, and moving through it. With processing, though, it is always something outside, something that is different than us.
I grieve every day. I grieve when I am with someone who has lost a loved one. I grieve when I hear someone say, “They didn’t tell me chemo was going to be this way. I should have had the operation.” I grieve when I see the wretched state of political debates, of violence, of abuse of our planet. I grieve so much and often that there is a weight I carry that never goes away. I pray for peace and mercy for our Earth and for the humans and the non-humans who live on it. God have mercy.
And yet, I never wish that I could remain naive of all this. I never wish for this weight to go away. It’s like saying, “Breathing is just too much work. I’d rather not do it for an hour or two.” When we learn how to grieve (not learn how to process grief) we grieve even when we are not conscious we are grieving. We become a person who grieves. There is a compassion and a union that happens there. It is a development of the person, something we have to learn and allow ourselves to grow into. Perhaps we begin by remembering that grief is not a bad thing, and it is not a good thing either, it is just a thing. It is a hard thing, yes, but so is waking up when we have been asleep for too long. It is painful, but so is exercising when our muscles atrophy. Perhaps our grief ability has been atrophied by a world that continues to tell us that grief is a bad thing that must be moved through, processed, and healed from. There is no healing from grief.
I am beginning a course at George Fox Seminary
called The History of Christian Spirituality and Renewal
. I am eating it up… loving the opportunity to explore the depths of the tradition I call my own. At the same time, I am learning so much of my own ancestral lineage (at www.myheritage.com
) and how my heritage fits into the story of England, the United States, and Christianity. Fascinating!
I have known at a very early age that my life is to be about guiding people on the spiritual path. And yet, for so long, I really didn’t understand what benefit Christianity offered to the world other than security in the afterlife. It is only after being in Bend, OR
, where so many of my community really don’t want to have anything to do with Christianity or the church that I am learning what I have to offer. It is an interesting journey to learn the joy of my spiritual tradition from engaging in community with those who don’t practice it.
And yet, I still haven’t found my voice. I know the “what” but I don’t understand the “how” yet. My heart is overflowing these days as I study, research, write, and contemplate the depth at which I desire to engage the world around me. Here I am, resonating so deeply with Celtic spirituality, Christian mysticism
, creation spirituality, indigenous and wisdom-based cultures, elements of Shamanism and Native American spirituality, masculine / feminine spirituality, psychology… and at the same time so very committed to the reality that is Christ in the world.
The clarity of my offering is within me somewhere. These times at present are so focused on living it, experimenting, and experiencing. My writing is not always clear. My speaking is often incomplete and jumbled… a heartfelt, and often spirit-led “BLEGH” of thoughts that come to me in the moment. I know… I feel… and yet I am so often still a baby trying to get my legs under me.
Two young seekers reflect together on the paradox and dynamic of being young men dedicated to the spiritual path.
One says, “I have found that if I am going to surround myself with people dedicated to serious spirituality, I am usually going to be one of the youngest in the room.”
“Serious” spirituality, eh? I didn’t know that spirituality was such a serious thing! I am struck most often with the lack of seriousness in the most influential spiritual teachers… why do you think that is? I suppose because they recognize that most things don’t really matter that much after all.
When I look at Jesus, I don’t see him as a deeply serious man. Not trite or jovial, necessarily… but not too serious. He talked about banquets where all were invited and no one came… he talked about paying people equal wages no matter what work they had done… he talked about life in the kingdom, life of love, forgiveness, no worries. I see him saying these things with a wink and a smile. Because he knew, he understood, he saw behind and around the seriousness.
I have lately found myself “consulting” for a number of friends regarding matters of community, vision, and spiritual growth. There is a sentiment that consistently comes up in our conversations. People have ideas, they have visions for something better, they have intentions… and they wonder how to get there from here. My answer is very often, “Just do it. It’s not that complicated.”
How do I make this restaurant more like a community? Just do it… be a community. How do I commit more time to my spiritual growth? Just do it… commit more time. How do I develop a community that it going to be motivated to change the world? Just do it… be that community that changes things. How do I live more like Christ? Just do it… live like Christ.
Many people might say, its not that simple… and I would say, it’s not that complicated! Life is not that complicated! It’s important to remember that all vision is a journey, a process. All transformation is never complete. We are always moving… and if our vision is finally complete, it is not a vision that is going to motivate people into the future. It was a plan all along, not a vision.
With this awareness, we must remember that vision very often cannot be explained, it must be experienced. So rather than asking how can this vision be accomplished (through some strategy, tactic, or effort), we have to ask how do I live in this vision right now? What decision to I make for this growth path that I am on right now? It’s all a choice folks. It’s all a choice.