upper room daily devotions

Friday, June 22, 2007

grieving during transition

Here is an edited copy of my July newsletter article on the power and importance of grieving during times of transition. I know that all of us face times of grieving; we just often don't allow ourselves the sacred space necessary to mourn in healthy ways. This is just my reflection drawn from personal experience.

This July marks the third anniversary of my father's death. Right after I was appointed to Woodland Park in 2004, I received the call that my father's health, which had been deteriorating for a number of years due to congestive heart failure, had finally reached a point where medical and surgical intervention would no longer help him. I flew home and took a couple of weeks to spend with my family as my father passed from this world to the next joining the communion of saints. This was by far the most difficult transition of my life. It brought an experience of loss for which I was unable to prepare myself. It was also a holy time for my family and for me. After years away from the small town that I consider my family home, I returned and walked the graveyards where my ancestors are buried, the farmland that my uncle farmed, and laughed and reclined in the heat of the Delta sun. It was both a homecoming and a home-losing. I lost the sense of home that was tied to my father 's life, but I was able to recall how home roots me in a rich past that goes back generation after generation. It was an important time.

Perhaps I am more nostalgic this year because I have bought my first house, something about which my dad would have provided counsel, caution, and care. I'm thrilled about this new transition in my life, but I'm a bit sad that my dad didn't see me make this big step into adulthood. My excitement is a bit tempered by a dull ache. Life is like that, though. We can't out-plan or out-maneuver it. It just comes at us, and we have to find our way through. And, if we would look up and look around, we might discover all kinds of lessons pouring down on us clamoring to be learned.

As I pack my belongings and prepare to leave the parsoange, I do so with some ambivalence. I'll miss living next door the church. The parsonage is a wonderful home (much larger than the one I bought), and Phinney Ridge is a warm and neighborly community. I already am mourning the loss of calling this my home even though I'll still work at the church and spend plenty of time in the neighborhood. I also am expectant about the joys and challenges of being a home owner. The little things like cleaning the crawl space, improving the yard, and planning for the eventuality of replacing the plumbing are adventures that lie ahead. I know that for all who are home owners these are routine chores. For this first time home owner they are marks of the labor that it takes to be a good steward of this little piece of God's world that is now mine to care for. I hope that I will be able to acknowledge how I miss my dad not being here for this part of my life and still maintain excitement for this new adventure. It's important to allow time to mourn losses, whether they be big or not so big, whether they are marked by life changing transitions or little ones.

Most transitions in life are not as dramatic as the death of a parent, spouse, or child, but all transitions bring with them loss and learning. Too often we don't allow ourselves the time and the emotional space to recognize and mourn the losses that come with change and transition. It is important to do so...just to let ourselves experience the fullness of life, including the hard and grieving times. As a people who follow the God of the outcast, we can be assured that we are not alone while we grieve, but that doesn't make the grieving go away - at least it doesn't for me.

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