Grief

<deep breath>

It’s been two months.

Grief does funny things to you. It somehow turns you into an unpredictable brute of emotions. A friend described her process as a lazy susan of emotions that gets spun unpredictably, and you never know what you’re going to feel. The “stages of grief” are not as linear as I wish they were. At first I was trying to go through them like a nice checklist. I find instead, I’ve been wandering between denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance in large squiggly lines.

People tell me I should be so overjoyed she said “yes” to Jesus. While I’m sure the hope will settle in… I still just miss her a lot.

Grief can’t be rushed. But damnit, I want it to be over already. I hate being this weak. I hate being this uncontrolled. I hate not knowing when I will snap. I’m tired of having to apologize to people almost every day. My jokes are what they were 7 years ago before I did a lot of character work- cynical, angry and cutting. I slam cups down on tables a lot- which people think is out of my usual party-jovial-ness… but the act filled with anger. I’ve been swearing a lot more than even my relaxed standard for bad language can take. Objectivity and putting on the “work” hat takes so much energy.

It’s this brute of emotion I keep trying to lock up. I’ve made a discipline of it. “Daniel, you have to make emotional choices to be present” has been the credo of my incarnational lifestyle in this ministry to a culture that is not my own. I hide the beast behind this locked door because I’m ashamed of how the majority culture around me, my family, friends, students, coworkers …and God would judge it. I’m sure it’s the full representation of my sinful nature. I’m ashamed of my judgmentalism. I’m ashamed of my anger. I’m ashamed of my depression. I’m ashamed of how I might blow up on people. I’m ashamed of what my supervisors might be discussing behind closed doors if they start to see how immature I look.

…How easily I forget that locking up the beast is a choice towards hardness. How easily I forget that the most important emotional choice I could make is to open the door. Perhaps it’s the Lord’s mercy that grief has allowed the beast to break out from these heavy locked doors every now and then- to remind me that His mission is not to slay this part of me… but is to embrace it, love it and restore this beast’s humanity. For, if I were to listen to what I teach students- He doesn’t love part of me. He loves every fiber of my being. He loves the parts that reflect His image… and he loves this uncontrollable brute of emotion within me, because that was once a reflection of His image as well.

Last year I taught several interns that our best tool in ministry is not our strength, our talents, our charisma… but our vulnerability. I hate having to trust in the things that I teach.

Vulnerability forces me to remember His mercy on me, brute or not. The reminders from friends who say in both words and presence- “you are not alone.” The grace extended by my coworkers every time I’ve had a blow up in the middle of a meeting. The fact that my students haven’t left me in the midst of my unpredictable anger and withdrawal.  …and a new friend God has brought into my life- she keeps praying for me, and I know theologically there is really no such thing as somebody who God listens to more… but I’m pretty sure He listens to her more. There are times I feel I am drowning… but the people the Lord brings around me are like the waves withdrawing, dipping down to me so that I can breath. Mercy like a head bobbing out of violent waters gasping for breath.

I have to remember that what passes by before me in the midst of the waves as I cross the sea is not a ghost.

…maybe one day I’ll finally get it and arrive in Bethsaida.

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