Grieving families…how to find goodness in the worst of times.
Recently, my father died. I have four sisters. We were all with him when he died and our loving, heartbroken families were all around us in the week following. I learned so very much about myself in those days. Much of it, I don't like much. If in some small way, this post can bring hope to any who are brokenhearted and weary, I am simply sharing what I've learned so far...but I am only 10 days into the journey without the man who I have relied on all my life. I have much to learn, and this is just the beginning.
When we are in the midst of grief, a sinister force seems to lurk at the edge of our spirits, knowing there are so many new, broken places to gain access to our thoughts and our heart corners. I think the force is sin. Since the simple (as in, watered down so we can tolerate it, simple) definition of sin is "to miss the mark," it makes sense that it is the force that keeps us spinning out of balance and blocks the channels that we normally use to connect rationally and lovingly to the world.
Ego is where sin finds its coziest nest within us...the thoughts that begin and end with our own satisfaction or hurt and what we consider the only true perspective. Those thoughts add prickly quill feathers to sin's nest...the type that injure anytime we brush against them.
Grief, the kind that feels like an elephant is sitting on one's chest, is fertile ground for the seeds scattered from the empowered ego and its comfortable resident, sin. The body suffers from exhaustion. Thoughts turn inward and communication becomes jumbled. It is a state in which lasting hurt can grow deep roots that block the channels God means to use to work through us to one another.
Here's the good news.
Love, in the form of every priceless memory of who and whose we truly are, blows in on a mighty wind like one born from the Southeastern Montana prairies, and it sweeps through our hearts. It blows away the nesting debris. It reminds us of the value in all perspectives and the interconnectedness that yields the synergism from which unparalleled goodness grows.
Perhaps because the only playground activity at which I ever succeeded was tetherball, I keep coming back to this metaphor as I think about the love at the center of my family.
My father, who was used to building things that would last and withstand all forces, dug an incredibly deep hole in our back yard into which he placed a tetherball pole. He then filled it with concrete and dirt. On the top of the pole, he had welded an iron ring to which the chain for the ball was fastened. There was no chance the chain to which rope for the ball was tethered would ever come loose.
My mom was the one who asked my dad to erect the pole. I felt (and was, actually) highly unskilled in all sports around which playground and P.E. activities were built. I was an awkward outsider. The tetherball pole was my mom's way of reinforcing the thing I was good at. It was intended to ground me in a sense of proficiency.
The tetherball pole is so much like the love at the core of my family. It is deep and unshakeable. We swing far from it and fly along bumpy and battered courses only to wrap ourselves back along that core where we are secure and centered. We come back to it always. It is where the bruises from bumps, and the pricks left from those quills all heal and are forgotten. They are swept from our open (note...open) hearts by that Spirit-generated wind.
It is the love my mother began and my father built. It is the place where God's goodness grows and love leaves no space for destructive seedlings to take root. Even grief can not break the tether to my heart. I am blessed and will rest in this assurance. As I rest from the battering of grief, it is what eventually will give me the confidence to stand tall and walk out into life's playground to see what good I can be and do.