Tag Archives: Grief

Grace Isn’t Always As It Seems

Grace /ɡrās/ noun 1.) free and unmerited favor

It’s a word known and familiar.  Regardless of one’s personal convictions, its highly likely that nearly every American and countless many abroad hear the words “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound” whenever its familiar melody begins to play.

Grace.

We are deeply touched, even unsettled, whenever we recognize its been given to us. At times, the role of “grace giver” can feel deeply satisfying. This lovely notion that has spurred on artworks and anthems, namesakes worldwide and notoriety to iconic figures through history: A tiny nun who spent her years giving orphans a home. A friendly cardigan-zipping neighbor elevating the dignity of a fellow human being above society’s dividing lines. A mighty king of old extending his scepter at the unbeckoned approach of an unlikely queen. A carpenter’s son finding greatest worth among the least of these. Hymns and homilies and hashtags waxed poetic of grace in action while traditions and fairytales giving glimpses of its worth.

Grace.

We all need it.  

We’d like to think we freely give it.  

And I’ll bet my bottom dollar, in one form or another, we all crave it. Desperately.

At least, I know I do. 

Sometimes I recognize it when given. Obvious signs of favor I neither deserve nor deny. Evidence of mercy’s bestowing opposite twin. Where mercy withholds deserved consequences without leverage, grace bestows favor without merit. I see its evidence and feel its weight, warm as a cloak wrapped round the shivering shoulders of a helpless child. It floods my heart with gratitude and fills my sight with awe.

It home, only lost, In times like these, my mind runs rampant. I’ll recall those hymns and homilies, declarations of grace amazing and sweet, their comfort felt sharp as a knife and bitter on my tongue.

But sometimes, there are other times when all evidence hides in plain sight; the cloak’s warmth becoming absolute as a deathly hallow, obscuring all enveloped within from earnestly searching sight. Whispers wafting on the wind, teasing those things longer far remain near, beyond reach or site.

If I’m honest (and can’t we all just be honest), I quickly arrive at conclusions on my worth and the grace-giver’s intentions and all the reasons why this gift, by nature undeservable, has deliberately been withheld. Shaming conclusions and damning rejections. I look for grace and find shadows instead. And I determine my perspective accurate, informed, right.

You too?

It’s unnervingly easy to come to such conclusions. At least, I find it so. I look for grace like a river while sorrows like sea billows roll.

But maybe, just maybe, circumstances aren’t always as they first seem.

Grace.

What if the shadows are not vacancies but evidence of a stronger light?

What if the pain is not a punishment but a provision to expose and spark rescue from a subversive deadly woe?

What if felt silence is not absence but rather the quiet nearness of a gentle embrace?

What if when we wrestle through the night, as Jacob did in times of old, what if the resulting limp IS the blessing?

What if hope is not in fact hollow but firmly rooted in a foundation eyes cannot currently see?

It’s a lesson lifelong for this girl named for what she must relearn over and again. A gift often wrapped in peculiar packaging.

Sometimes grace is a shelter and sometimes grace is the rain.

Sometimes grace is a placeholder, holding off the good as it secures space for something greater on its way.

Sometimes grace is a cradle and sometimes grace is a crucifixion.

May my eyes behold this gift of grace when wrapped wrapped in peculiar packaging, and remember always it bestows favor: unmerited, unrestricted, and free.

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Filed under Faith, God, Patience, Struggles, Suffering, Thoughts

The Spark of Solidarity

I’ve found my heart heavy in recent days, heavy with a grief I cannot quite explain.

Loss comes in many forms, you see. Some sudden, some slowly, others in increments over time. I’ve long held to the notion that loss is loss is loss. While the details of our individual suffering may vary, human decency requires we honor its magnitude based on the weight felt by the one required to bear its load.

As the calendar marks another year since my firstborn son died, I’m struck afresh by this mortal proclivity towards comparison. Some who have not walked my road may be tempted to diminish their own woes as less than. In contrast, a grief unresolved could easily seem to outweigh all others.

Death. Disease. Divorce. Disappointments.

We all have our version of “worst case scenario” that life has required us to carry. These differences ought push us towards compassion rather than comparison. While you may never have walked a bereaved mother’s road, I have not had to walk as an orphan or a cancer patient. Where one person’s suffering may exist in external circumstances, some equally weighty exist where eyes cannot see but are just as real as tangible things.

Loss is loss is loss.

And yet…

There is a kind of loss that, in my eyes, trumps all others by comparison. One that I cannot wrap my mind around and feel honestly blessed to have not been required to bear thus far. It comes in vast shapes and forms, but haunts me just the same.

That of the sudden, the unthinkable, the kind that leave you utterly speechless, the unexplained.

Shootings. Devastating disasters. A sudden lethal heart attack in a healthy wife and mother. A child who never wakes from sleep. Things that should never, ever be.

In the face of such sudden atrocities, my own losses will always pale. Indeed, they fade into seeming luxury by comparison. Perhaps yours feel that same way. What do you say? What can you do? Platitudes cannot and should not suffice in such circumstances. How could they?

Today finds me grappling with such things, with memories of a heaven-bound son and signs of a broken world surrounding. In truth, it finds me with more questions than answers, more prayers of grief for the woes of those known by name and news headlines, more aware of what not to say than words to fill a heavy void.

But even in this space of wondering why, a smallest spark lights up the dark with hope. Not in an outcome perhaps, but in an understanding.

While our details may vary, life has dealt us all a heavy load to bear. We are mortal after all. While such weights can tempt us to comparison, they can also stir us towards compassion – compassion which we all need, that we all have the opportunity to bestow to our fellow man. The losses in my life do not diminish the magnitude of your own, nor vice versa. Instead they bestow a peculiar blessing.

The opportunity for solidarity.

I will never understand life’s sudden losses. I cannot fathom the grief of a parent stripped of their healthy child in a moment nor the terror of receiving that call from an officer. There are wounds you cannot quite grasp either, ones that make your own feel seemingly small.

But what I can do – what we all can do – is allow individual sorrows to fuel a compassion for others, one that stands in solidarity beside the sufferer so they need not grieve alone. We can see them. We can acknowledge the price life has required they pay. We can remember long after the signs and services and sympathy cards have ceased. We can extend our arms once weak with grief to hold up those now in need of lifting. Even Jesus took time to weep. He could have compared the coming crucifixion and found their grievance small. Instead, He wept. So too may we.

While life’s losses can defy explanation, may they fuel compassion. May grieving hearts be kept soft by the solidarity of others who refuse to leave their side.

Though today finds me with more questions than answers, may it also find a willingness to extend a battered heart in compassion rather than comparison, tender with empathy rather than indifference.

Loss is loss is loss. It ALL matters.

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Filed under Suffering