Christmas Advent HERO

We had hoped

Permission to grieve

We had hoped… These words have been swirling through my mind and been in the background of many conversations over the last month.  They are the words uttered by Cleopas on the road to Emmaus. Cleopas and his companion were walking on the road to Emmaus. They had heard from the women and the disciples that went to the tomb after the women’s declaration that Jesus was not there and an angel said he was alive.  In the story Jesus meets them on the road, but like many resurrection appearances they don’t realize it is him at first.  He asks them what they are talking about. Their response is both shock and honesty. First they can’t believe that someone hasn’t heard what just happened in Jerusalem to Jesus. They recount the crucifixion and then say “We had hoped he would be the one to redeem Israel.”  They go on to share what the women have proclaimed. Clearly they don’t know what to think or believe.  

I love this story for many reasons, but during the last month it has been swirling in my heart. I have always appreciated how Jesus first just listened to them on the journey as they named what they had experienced and what they had hoped for. Throughout scriptures we hear people lament over and over, crying out to God. I think for many during this time it can be hard to lament. We fall into comparative grief and decide ours isn’t worthy so we invalidate it and try to numb ourselves to it. 

I think it can also seem that people of faith somehow “shouldn’t” lament, that they are supposed to be the ones that see the “silver lining” or “joy” each day. The truth is, faith isn’t about feeling happy and presenting that to the world at all times. I believe faith is believing in a God that can handle our joy but who can also handle our lament — that we trust God enough to be able to hear our cries, our anger, and our grief and meet us in that place on our journey.  When we don’t do this we can numb ourselves to try not to feel it and create a superficial faith. In the Bible there is the book of Lamentations. Yes, an entire section of the Bible to naming lament. The psalms also are filled with people crying out to God.  

Last week in a social media group I am a part of, someone posted, “I have heard too many people apologizing for their disappointments during this time. We need to be able to unapologetically name our disappointments without minimizing the impact they have had on us. Yes, bigger things are happening right now but it is ok to feel for missed experiences. I’ll start…” This post resulted in over 100 comments.  For this group that is an extremely high response rate. As I read through the post, I started to weep in a way I haven’t during most of this time.  I think it was the freedom and permission to name and feel that I didn’t realize I had numbed myself to, in order to get through all that needs to be taken care of daily with work and family (and, yes, all the crazy e-learning for my kiddos). 

Grief is real, it is not just something that is experienced when a loved one dies, but it comes also with the loss of plans, jobs, daily routines, identity, … the list goes on and on. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross studied grief and identified five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  These aren’t linear stages but things that a person will move between as they process their grief. David Kessler worked with her and has recently named a sixth stage of grief: meaning making. In listening to him talk about this, however, it was clear that we can just jump to meaning making, that the other stages need to be also engaged. We can begin to find meaningful moments even in the midst of the grief we are experiencing, however we can’t deny the grief.  Part of acceptance is naming the loss. Part of our faith is trusting that the God of new life can meet us in the midst of our anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. 

As a community of faith it is also important to create space and hold each other’s grief together.  Therefore, I have created a space for people to unapologetically name their grief, that which they have lost. This is not a space to compare but to realize that the loss we have each experienced is valid. I invite you to name your loss and lament at this link.  I also invite us as a community to pray with and for those that are named on the space. There are times in grief when we struggle to even pray and rely on the community of faith to huddle with us and join in our cries of lament. As we journey together we trust that the Risen Christ meets us and journeys with us as we make our way to the new life that is promised.

Dcs. Kristin

April 22, 2020

Deaconess Kristin Lewis and University Pastor James Wetzstein take turns writing weekly reflections. You can contact Deaconess Kristin here and Pastor Jim here