Truth About Loss and Grief

July 3rd, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

My wife and I have experienced loss and grief and have watched a number of others work through various types of grief.  Whether losing a job, a child, suffering through an accident; life is full of times of loss, pain, grief, and uncertainty.

Although a deep subject written about exhaustively by a myriad of authors, three things seem true to me and are not talked about much:

1. Everyone is going to experience loss and grief.

The question is how we mitigate risk and how we deal with the physical and emotional fallout when it happens.  Outside of the “don’t-be-stupid” kinds of common-sense decision making, mitigating risk to avoid potential loss is an empty pursuit.  Many people try to sanitize life.  They expend incredible amounts energy wrapping their lives up in bubble-wrap trying to avoid the inevitable.  Many support government regulating everything to prevent anyone from getting hurt.  They miss out on adventure as they seek insulation from potential pain.  They can’t accept the fact that risk is one of the things we are created to take and make life a joy to live.  When loss and grief hit, these people are ill-prepared to work through it.

2. Everyone has brokenness.

Sin comes with brokenness.  We are born into it.  Depravity comes with damage and malfunction.  Those of us who are Christ-followers have an “Old Man” that is riddled with this and a “New Man” that is healed of these things.  We are supposed to put off the old man and put on the new.  This is hard without loss and grief, which leads me to the third truth:

3. Loss and grief do not break people.  Grief exacerbates brokenness.

As we have experienced difficult times along with the side-effects that come with them and as we’ve watching others suffer through grief, I have noticed that there is a big difference between natural pain and unnatural pain:

Some things in life are inevitable and natural.  Death, taxes, disappointment, loss, and grief.  Although part of this fallen world and a result of sin; they are “natural,” inevitable, and are just going to happen.  We are built to withstand these things.  There may be no more painful thing than losing your own child – whether a miscarriage after striving to get pregnant or a teenager dying in a tragic accident; but we are built to work through these things.  Life has loss built in.  Life has grief built in.

Some things in life are unnatural.  Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse are not natural.  When a person is abused by another, especially someone who should be caring for them, these things cause new breaks.  The old man is inherently broken but these kinds of unnatural injuries to our minds and bodies cause breaks that are new and extraordinary.  Often debilitating.  When I say “loss and grief,” I’m not talking about these kinds of unnatural blows to our humanity that must be addressed as brokenness that requires restoration and healing in their own unique ways.

So…what’s my point?

Grief and sorrow as a response to loss is a natural reaction.  Loss is inevitable in some form or another.  Some losses are brutal.  Others are just disappointing.  Either way, there is a process of dealing with these things.  My hypothesis right now, based on my experience, is that loss and grief do not break us.  They don’t create brokenness.  We aren’t damaged by it.  Grief simply dredges up and exacerbates brokenness.  That “old man” becomes harder to put off.  Our “new man” grieves too and is harder to put on.  Cracks in the old man are more visible as grief pours over it and exposes old wounds.

This should be encouraging those grieving and feeling broken.  Although brokenness is there, it can be put off!  If we “embrace the suck” and allow ourselves to grieve as we reach out to God and ask for help putting on the new man, eventually we’ll find that we not only find a new normal in our lives but we have tools and experiences at our disposal unique to our experience and useful for the Kingdom.  God, in time, heals.  Grief doesn’t make us more broken – it should only remind us how beautiful and precious the gift of the “new man” really is.

The Little Moments That Shape A Life

March 21st, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

I had a dream last night that encapsulated a few little moments that shaped my life.  Awkward, embarrassing moments… and disconcerting ones.  Here are a few examples of some true stories from my past:

A Moment of Extreme Hypocrisy

After becoming a believer during my sixth grade year and spending a Summer with my uncle learning about my newfound faith, I came back to school my 7th grade year ready to share my faith with my friends.  Overall, I did a decent job of embracing my new lifestyle and I, generally, had more hope and joy in my life than I did previously.  But I was still a punk kid.  Without any cash.  And I was thirsty.

After spending a number of minutes sharing the Gospel with my classmates at the lunch table, I was extremely thirsty.  Not having any money and being too proud to admit it, I  walked through the lunch line, grabbed a chocolate milk, and walked right out toward the table I was sitting at.  I was busted.  A male teacher in a loud voice called after me: “You had better be paying for that!”  I quickly feigned a lack of a quarter and every intent to borrow one.  After a friend coughed up the requisite coin, I walked back and paid for my milk before making the walk of shame back to my table.   » Read the rest of this entry «

Confounded By Those Who Write Others Off

February 21st, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

I am confounded by those who write others off.  I don’t think I’ve ever done it in my life. Disagreements, awkwardness, relational struggles, and/or distance? Sure. But to simply write someone off?  Weird.  To those who have written me off: it won’t be reciprocated. I’m always here.

I have friends who, through the awkwardness that comes with conflict they’ve had with mutual friends or family, will no longer engage in a relationship with me.  I have friends who were legitimately hurt by my actions or words and who will not respond to communication or apologies.

I can’t understand it.

Relationships are hard as most good things are.

I’m currently reading “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and this concept reminds me of something he said about human interaction and community:

“Human love has little regard for truth. It makes the truth relative, since nothing, not even the truth, must come between it and the beloved person. Human love desires the other person, his company, his answering love, but it does not serve him.”

He also states his belief that people cannot live in true community and love without coming to each other in love that comes from God.

I think I agree.  One fundamental truth about love is that it believes the best about people, it bears all things, and it is patient.  Human love – the kind that humans are capable of in and of themselves – is incapable of this kind of patient selflessness.

I fail at loving people the way they should be loved as friends or family all the time.  But one thing I have never struggled with is the confounding, downright cruel act of writing people off.  I’ve experienced friends I love break all ties with me because of a disagreement, a lack of proximity, their awkwardness when we experienced great loss, and over doctrinal or worldview differences.

I’m not sure anyone who is pursuing Christ can write off anyone.  There are those who mean to do us harm or those who are foolish and should be avoided.  But even these deserve open arms and unconditional love should they come seeking it in humility.  The cruel sickness that is the abrupt ending of a friendship stings more than it should.  And it stings forever.

Embrace Your Weaknesses

November 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Embrace your weaknesses…and then strangle them.  Just don’t try to do it by yourself.  I write these words as a man who is still at the beginning stages of figuring out how to do this.

As a follower of the Scriptures, think about all the exhortations to overcome who we naturally are:

Ephesians 4:17-24 – “…put off…the old man…”

Romans 8:26 – “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.”

There are many.  I have times when my thoughts and behaviors are just not pleasing to me…let alone a holy Creator.  But how do we overcome our depravity, lack of self discipline, and bad habits?  Embrace them.

I’m not talking about the embrace of acceptance.  I’m talking about the embrace of subjugation.  We all know this.  And we try.  But the emphasis is usually on the most dangerous letter in the English language: “I.”  You cannot do this on your own.  Romans 8 says “the Spirit” also helps in our weaknesses.  So we must, as Ephesians suggests, make a conscious effort to and take ownership of our actions and our issues.  We must embrace our weaknesses and diligently seek God for His help in choking the life out of them.  We must embrace them until He takes them.  We must subjugate our weaknesses with His help.

We don’t conquer a weakness to please God.  We work with God to conquer our weaknesses because that pleases Him.  It’s His work but, for some reason, He seems to want us to seek Him out, participate with Him, and conquer with Him.  Sounds like He’s training us for something bigger…maybe something eternal…

What is the role of friends, family, and the rest of the Church?  Well, that’s probably a series of blog posts.

Do As I Do Not Do

September 30th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Ever do something, shake your head, and ask yourself, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

I do.  Frequently.  If you’re honest, you do too.

For me it is often with diet and exercise.  My latest example was today.  I was feeling a bit down after the wife and kids had left the house this morning so, instead of diving into work, I went down and did 79 squats (way too many for my fitness level), plus push-ups, sit-ups, and planks using, mainly, the Runtastic Apps for each exercise.  Speaking of which, when are you going to have Facebook and Apple HealthKit integration, Runtastic?!

After a number of hours of working, I was starting to feel like I was slipping into a funk again.  This isn’t abnormal for me this time of year – especially this year.  Just as I was starting to realize this, I saw that Strava’s update integrating Apple’s Health App was out so I downloaded the update and almost automatically put my shoes on and headed out the door to try it out on a “short jog.”  It was the first time I’d run in two months.

Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I tend to be an all-or-nothing guy.  I’m either ball-to-the-wall or rear-to-the-cushion.  Very little in-between.

I had to stop at 2.5 miles.  My times were meh.  And instead of fighting off feeling depressed, I’m now fighting off the urge to medicate for pain and trying not to get any more introspective than needed.

The moral of the story?  Watch me on MyFitnessPal, Strava, and Runtastic.  Then do something else.  Because I suck at the whole diet, exercise, and overall wellness thing.  I’ll probably be lighter tomorrow…because I’ll have lost muscle mass.  It’s supposed to rain tomorrow…maybe I can avoid hurting myself.

Debating Others

February 26th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

I’ve come to the conclusion that one should never debate another unless there is a sincere care/love for the other person. Debating almost never changes hearts or minds. But a civil, factual debate with sincere love and care for the other creates mutual respect and a chance at agreement.

Wisdom is knowing when to shut up, when to debate, and when to fight.

There is no honor, however, in having to fight because you were too foolish to shut up or engage with caring when you had the chance.

Time Is Strange

February 24th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

Time is strange.  I just realized recently that I’m the age my parents were when I graduated from high school.  I have a nine and 11 year old.  In less than five years I’ll have been married as long as I was single.  I’ve lived in my current city longer than I’d lived anywhere else combined (which is a long time for someone who moved around a lot as a kid!).

Time is weird.  And it slips away.

“For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” – James 4:14b

A Look Back At Personal Posts

June 27th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

A look back at personal posts can be a healthy way to see where you’ve been and where you are.  I sometimes get a little insight in to where I’m going which can, at times, be both encouraging and scary.

I was telling someone earlier this week about me and my story and this person asked if I had ever written any of this stuff down.  Some.  A little.  Here are some links to posts I’ve written before that sum up my little life:

About Me – Who the heck am I?

The Path of The Fatherless – a little about my childhood.

The Great Anger – the most defining time in my life.

Loving Your Enemy – Something I’m working on.  Enemies aren’t the hardest to love…”frenemies” are.

Christians In Politics – an old post outlining my thoughts on people of faith in the public policy arena.

There are others on this blog and elsewhere on the interwebs.  I hope my experiences in my relatively young life resonate with you in some way.  I don’t post as much as I used to but I am an open book.  You can drop me a line on my “About Me” page any time or leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

A Tiny Retrospective

December 19th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

The last time I posted was on November 25 so here is a tiny retrospective on my month and my year.  Crazy how time flies.  Here’s the scoop:

I spent the 27th and 28th in Rochester, MN accompanying my grandfather to Mayo Clinic to have an experimental procedure done to rid him of an infection that wouldn’t go away.  He’s feeling much better since the procedure, it was an honor to take him up there, and I’m hopeful that he’s cured.  We’ll find out in a month or so I guess.  He’s also moved into a new house in Britt, Iowa since I last posted.  Weird to have him in a different house than the one he’s lived in for 40 years. » Read the rest of this entry «

Haters Gonna Hate

November 17th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

My son informed me that a child at school hears stories at home from their parent(s) about how I’m a compromiser, I’m weak, and that I’m not good at my job. This child, according to Kyle, doesn’t quite know what to think about all that. I told my son to smile back and shower this (truly great) kid with love.  The fact that I adore this kid makes it all the more notable for me.

Not sure if I’m annoyed at the whole thing, feel pity for the parent, or am amused that someone thinks I’m important enough to talk about but not talk to.

Telling slander to your kid knowing it might spread through the class and get back to that parent through their own child is less-than-classy, though.  I was surprised as my wife and I try VERY hard teach our kids to respect and care about others and believe the best (like the Scriptures tell us to) until we find out otherwise.

It was one of those parenting moments where I felt like it was more important that my son know it’s not always important to defend yourself.  It’s not the first time I’ve been attacked.  When I was appointed to the State Board of Education, a hateful blogger lied about me and tried to paint me in a negative light.  What really made my eyes roll, however, was that this blogger than tried to connect with me on LinkedIn a week or two later.  I declined.  The lesson I learned with that blogger, however, is that I made the right choice to ignore it.  If I had defended myself, or fought back, I would not have changed him and he would have had additional readers to his blog that I had sent.  I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of additional traffic.  Does that prove I’m weak or point to the fact that I might be trying to stay above board? » Read the rest of this entry «