Before you move on.

I sat on the couch with tears in my eyes, this after who knows how long staring out the window, somehow numb in thought. My four-year-old, more adept than you sometimes give them credit for at that age, came up and touched my leg without saying a word. He paused his play long enough to sense something was wrong.

“Daddy, why are you crying?”

I did my best stereotypical American male, grunting Tim Allen impersonation. “Oh, I’m not crying. (clear throat). No, Daddy was just thinking.” He looked at me with this great compassionate, fully resonant calmness, and said, “Daddy, this is about your friend who died, isn’t it? It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to cry.”

And I wept. That moment made me realize something about the drastic, often catastrophic warping that takes place somewhere on the path from childhood to adulthood. Somehow it becomes unacceptable to cry, to show sadness, to acknowledge the obvious pain. Hold back the tears, hide the sorrow, get busy right away and put it out of your mind. But children aren’t like that at all. They weep and howl like it’s nobody’s business. They grieve the loss of their blanky without the possibility of condolence.

I think this says something about our American culture. With our advances in medicine and our fear of facing pain, we run from it as fast as we can. You intentionally get busy back at work. You run to what’s funny immediately following tragedy. You force yourself not to cry. We are afraid of pain, so we run. While other cultures, including the biblical ones, spent considerable time grieving, Dustin Shramek writes,

We, on the other hand, have about a week before we are expected to return to work and put up the front that we are okay. Even worse, in America most of us work hard at holding back the loud cries during funerals. Indeed, we even try to hold back the tears (Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, 178).

We need to face the pain for what it is. We need to weep and lament and grieve. Of course I tie this to the death of my friend Davin, and I preach to myself, “Don’t flee from this.” Especially for those of us on the periphery, it’s easy to want to not move closer to the pain, to just get back on with our lives. But a few thoughts on this, the day of Davin’s first memorial service.

First, only when you truly face the pain and enter into it can you experience deeply the healing power of hope in the promises of God. You can walk away from the pain, but you’re also walking away from experiencing the healing of Christ in your sadness. So don’t run from what God has ordained for your life as both the striking blow of despair and, in time, the healing balm of hope in the Resurrection, Jesus himself. Weep. Cry. Acknowledge the ache that won’t go away, the thoughts of sadness that make each day feel like a numbing blur. And when you do, cry out to God. Run to the One who knows agony and life afterward.

Second, and I think more importantly, face the pain and agony because we can’t love those who are suffering at the center—we can’t come beside them and weep with them—if we aren’t also willing to get near that pain. The call as Christians is to carry each other’s burdens, to weep with those who weep, and go to our brothers and sisters when they are suffering. We can’t heed those commands unless we are willing to get near their pain, feel the agony, and allow our hearts to break with theirs. So face the pain and weep, that you may also be with them in their weeping.

You can choose to turn and go the opposite direction of the carnage of tragedy, but you can’t at the same time experience the healing power of God and come alongside those who are mourning and crying out in despair. You will find yourself simultaneously fleeing the mercy of God for yourself and as an instrument in the lives of others.

“Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured” (Hebrews 13:13).

On this May the 2nd, we will probably all feel tempted to escape the agony in some form. Don’t. Embrace the pain and the mercy to come, for your sake and for the sake of others. And weep like a child, falling on his promises for those who do (Matthew 5:4).

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7 thoughts on “Before you move on.

    • My pleasure. After you commented I went back and re-read it, which was a blessing for me too. Kind of funny, I dont remember having written it now, so it was like reading somebody else, at which point it actually benefits me (i dont enjoy reading myself hardly at all). I’m curious, how is it impacting you still today? Not just the article, but the ideas in it and Davin’s story? You can reply here or, if you feel up to it, you can email it to me at theviewfromthreefeet@gmail.com. Thanks and God bless you!

  1. I have been reading on grief and how to grieve and longing and C.S. Lewis and all sorts of things since losing my parents in Dec. 2011 and Dec. 2012. I was privileged to get from CA. to IL. both time to be with each of them. So precious.
    The year between the death of my mom and my dad, I read much about grief and grieving but just now found you! I love your paragraph, “First, only when you truly face the pain and enter into it can you experience deeply the healing power of hope in the promises of God. You can walk away from the pain, but you’re also walking away from experiencing the healing of Christ in your sadness. So don’t run from what God has ordained for your life as both the striking blow of despair and, in time, the healing balm of hope in the Resurrection, Jesus himself. Weep. Cry. Acknowledge the ache that won’t go away, the thoughts of sadness that make each day feel like a numbing blur. And when you do, cry out to God. Run to the One who knows agony and life afterward.” So very very true. Thank you!
    I find comfort in what Deitrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

    “There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it.
    It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship.
    Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”

    The holes that losses leave in our lives are permanent until heaven. God intends it to be so. I think He intends the holes to be places to which we return; to remember the person or event or thing that made the hole; to meet Him there as together we gaze into the hole, touch it, listen to it speak to us, dangle our feet in it, cry, laugh, rest. He experiences it all with us. He is not impassible – not untouched by our sorrows.

    Thank you for your reflection in your writing. Is your son still as tenderhearted? : )

    • Thanks for stopping by to read and share your thoughts afterward. It feels like so long ago that I wrote this post, but as you said, some holes remain unfilled, and they call us back to meet the Lord there. It’s also excellent to know that it somehow benefited you—for that especially I am grateful.

      I’m sorry to hear about your parents, but I am also glad you are learning in the midst of it. Grief and sadness are no easy things, but in time I have found God uses them to draw us to himself more intimately.

      I really liked the Bonhoeffer quote you shared. As you may find if you read through my other posts in the Finding Davin series, I was reading Bonhoeffer’s biography in the months following my friend’s death, and it brought me great comfort. It reminded me of another Bonhoeffer quote which came in a letter he wrote after the death of several of his friends in Nazi Germany:

      “Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words. They should remain open. Our only comfort is the God of the resurrection, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who also was and is his God. In him we know our brothers and in him is the biding fellowship of those who have overcome and those who still await their hour. God be praised for our dead brother and be merciful to us all at our end” (Metaxas, 349).

      My son, now 6, is still a tenderhearted boy, yes. God has used him quite a bit to soften me, and I am grateful for that as well.

      I noticed on your blog you retired from homeschooling a little bit ago, very cool. We have just started about a year ago with our three boys (in Illinois). I also saw a link for Auburn Avenue Pres. on your blog, which was cool. Our pastor in Louisville, Ky., is good friends with Steve, the pastor in Monroe. Small world. (-:

      Thanks!

  2. Pingback: A Dark Friday in Colorado | The View From Three Feet

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