Friday, July 25, 2014

Morning Reflections - From Mourning to Joy

This week will mark the third celebration of life or memorial service I have done in my new appointment in as many weeks.  Outside of my immediate context, many I know are suffering the loss of loved ones in their lives.  Whether it be a recent loss or the anniversary of a significant loss, many are traveling this journey of grief.

I am often amazed and appalled at what we will say to one another in an attempt to comfort each other in these seasons of loss.  One of the most profound and true testimonies I have ever encountered regarding dealing with this kind of loss comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer who writes:

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve -- even in pain -- the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.” 

Through his words I recognize a fellow traveler along the journey of loss.  His statements give life to the feelings we have encountered in our own losses.  His recognition of God's activity in this place gives me hope that I do not travel this journey alone and that God is present in real and tangible ways.  Bonhoeffer doesn't soften or minimize the work that we do in this transformative process, but for me fleshes out what I think Christ might have meant when he said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

Today's prayer - Holy and gracious God, today we come before you acknowledging our human losses.  We give you thanks that you are always present, even when we feel the depths of emptiness due to these losses.  Grant us and all who mourn with us this day, strength in our weakness, hope in our despair, comfort in our sorrow, and courage for our journey.  As we bear these losses Lord, help us to hang on, leaning fully into you, until such a time that our memories can be transformed into joy by your grace. We give thanks and ask these things in Christ's name.  Amen.

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