Much of my past year has been lived in the tension of grief and hope. I’ve learned something of the healing power of grieving and the place it has in the broader process of hope. Last fall I began describing the process of grieving as a coming to terms with the way things are. As I’ve had space to reflect on my life and process my own story, I’ve come to see the vast distance between how things are and how things ought to be. And this is not really a new thing…
I grew up in a broken home. My parents divorced before I was a year old. My dad remarried when I was only two. I spent my childhood between two homes. I remember describing my life as a volleyball tossed between two courts. All of that shifting left me feeling somewhat homeless. Yet, I knew that this was not how things were supposed to be. I knew that families were supposed to be together; that parents were supposed to be together. I knew, though I often felt homeless, that home existed. Though my life was one way, I knew there was a deeper and better way that life ought to be.
I grew up in a church that was wrought with debate and arguments. From instrumental music to women’s role in church; from the meaning of baptism to the Lord’s Supper to sharing a simple meal; everything seemed to be an argument. Everyone had their book/chapter/verse to prove their point and yet no one seemed concerned by the people who were left out and hurt along the way. Though I grew up in this sort of spiritual environment, I knew that this was not how things were supposed to be. I knew that God was not like this and that church was not supposed to be a place like this. Though my experience was one thing, I knew that there was a deeper and better way that things ought to be.
This past year many of my fears culminated in the separation and dissolution of my own marriage. I felt my dreams and hopes shatter; I read passages about how God’s love is enduring like that of a husband and a wife; and I knew that this was not how things were supposed to be. I knew that love was enduring and that marriage was supposed to be broken only by death. But this was not my story or experience any longer.
Somewhere in the midst of all of this, in the hopeful season of Advent, I posted the following to Facebook:
And it is this same sentiment that I bring to this post. Grief and hope are tied together as long as we are living somewhere between the way things are and the way things ought to be.
Outside of my own life and experience, I’ve seen our country this past year reel in the shocking pains of racial injustice (it was just about a year ago that Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, which seemed to be the beginning of a much larger and longer chain of excruciating and unsettling events); I’ve heard stories of fear and shame that many of my LGBT friends have had to carry through their lives; and I know that this is not how things are supposed to be.
All of this grief and pain is why I love the gospel. This past year I have learned that faith is holding onto the hope of how things ought to be even in the midst of the painful and shocking reality of the way things are. The gospel shows one of the only ways of honestly dealing with the way things are and the way things ought to be. In the life of Jesus death becomes eternally married to resurrection and therefore, grief becomes joined with hope. The words of John resonate so deeply in my soul:
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
(1 John 3:2-3, ESV)
And so I encourage you to not lose hope. When we live as people who only believe the way things are, then we slowly begin to lose our imagination and our dreams become dull. But when we live as people who only assert the way things ought to be we become disconnected from reality and have no way to enter into the pain of the world. Don’t lose your dreams.
Dreams are funny things: though they are born in the figments of our imagination, they take root in the realities of our lives. Hope asserts that things ought to be a certain way, but it begins to take root in the way things are by the simple choices of our daily lives. May you be one who dreams with divine imagination and hopes with resurrected living.
Even in the midst of my own pain and grief, may I live as though the redemption of the world is coming about. I choose the trust the story of resurrection because is it the only story I know that is large enough to bridge the distance between the way things are and the way things ought to be.
As it was in the beginning,
So it is now,
And shall be forever,
World without end,