Every death I hear about is now personally connected to me, whether or not it is actually someone I’m close to. I’m not arrogant enough to think I will maintain this level of sensitivity, but right now I embrace all hardship and suffering as an affront to my own person. And death and suffering are suddenly everywhere.
In the past six months…
A friend I had in college died, leaving behind a husband and two children. This was a healthy woman, a woman my age, a woman I had not talked to face to face in more than a decade. I felt her loss keenly.
My uncle is considering drastic steps to combat his multiple, complex health issues, and I count his suffering as one of my own.
My sister-in-law lost her grandmother, and I grieve almost as if it had been my own grandmother.
My grandfather passed away and even though he was 94, it was quick and unexpected.
And now, after a controversial decision and a drastic reversal by a hugely respected charity organization, the level of polarization within the Christian community was revealed.
What are these dark thoughts of inevitability, impending doom and constant bracing for the worst? What is it that makes my heart feel clenched and heavy?
My sister named what I could not: despair.
Isn’t that Melodramatic?
Despair sounds like a pretty drastic word. I think of it being used in a scene from Princess Bride when the albino henchman with the raspy voice starts telling the heroes their location: the Depths of Despair.
I used to be aware of danger, but didn’t bother with the possibility of it coming to me. We bought life insurance, but didn’t really discuss the possibility that one of us would actually DIE. It was all theoretical, and to dwell on it felt pessimistic (and honestly, it really didn’t occur to me to dwell on it anyway – it just wasn’t in my mind). There’s almost always something positive to find, even in the midst of hardships. Sometimes you have to zoom waaaay in to notice it, but the positive is in there somewhere.
Is this what was meant in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”? Have I only chosen to listen to the latter all these years, ignoring the challenge to enter into weeping?
Weeping makes me all red, puffy and exhausted. It makes my throat hurt. I’m not a pretty or dainty weeper, and it might be paired with wailing when it happens. It is probably uncomfortable for any parties who witness the weeping, but I’m glad to say that it is only a small number of people who have been subjected to it. (I’m sure you’d be happy to have avoided it if you knew what it looked like.)
Other translations of the verse mentioned above use the word “mourn” and today I feel the burden of the world, and a sense of mourning.
Some may say that word too is dramatic, too extreme for the circumstances.
Mourning is just right.
There are events so significant, their scope so broad in impact that mourning and despair are the only appropriate words.
Tonight, I am focused on the betrayal so many believers feel, on both sides of the issue. Some felt so betrayed by World Vision’s decision to allow gay married couples to be on staff that they withdrew their sponsorship and condemned both the decision and reiterated their abhorrence for homosexual people. People on the other side of the issue got their turn to feel betrayed when the organization reversed its decision, and asserted that they’d make sure their employees signed a document agreeing to a specific lifestyle code.
It feels like the final glove has been thrown down in the ongoing battle. Knives have been drawn in a fist fight. There is no room for middle ground anymore. How can either side try to meet in the middle and agree to disagree when the reactions have been so extreme? Such vehement spewing of un-love in the name of love makes me question if there can be – or should be – reconciliation after such a display. Where can we go from here?
Sorry I don’t have a tidy end to this post. I would ask that in discussing this, we all keep each other’s humanity at the forefront of our minds, and treat one another with utmost respect in any comments we offer, knowing that we come at this from very different angles.