Free to GrievePosted: October 6, 2013
Free to Grieve
A WORLD FULL OF CHANGE
All change involves some loss. And all losses need to be grieved. We live in a world full of change. Our culture seems to transform around us at the speed of light much faster than many of us are able to keep up. Phyllis Tickle a church historian has claimed that the smart phones many of us carry around with us will be as revolutionary for our culture as the invention of the printing press was at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Of course for many of us, who don’t have a teenager available to us any more, smart phones are one step too far into technology, and so we cling to our dumb phones. We find ourselves being left behind by a culture that appears increasingly alien. All change involves some loss. And all losses need to be grieved.
FREE TO GRIEVE
So when I looked at the scripture this morning about the Israelites mourning the loss of Jerusalem, I realized that many of us may be able to identify with this Psalm. We need to be free to grieve what feels like loss. For only when we are able to mourn what we feel like we have lost in the midst of overwhelming change are we free to move on into the future.
ALL CHANGE INVOLVES STRESS
First, we need to recognize that all change good as well as bad involves some stress. Why, because our brains like for everything around us to stay the same. New elements in our environment require us to learn and change the pathways in our brains and learning requires effort.
ROAD BLOCK IS STRESSFUL
As an example, we are driving down a familiar street, and we come to a construction site and need to change our path. By scanning around the area we should be able to find a detour and follow it to get where we want to go. Inherently, this situation shouldn’t cause any stress but our brains quickly offer a number of concerns that cause us to see the situation differently. Since we’ve taken the normal route before, we haven’t worried, because we knew the familiar path would take us where we want to go. When we run into a roadblock, suddenly information we trusted has broken down. Where does the detour lead? How long will it take? Is it dangerous? What we don’t know tends to scare us, and change creates a lot of stress.
CHANGE IS HARD
Right now beyond not wanting to spend the money I am delaying replacing my little netbook, because I don’t look forward to the change. If I buy a new lap top, it will come with a new operating system, and I don’t want to have to learn Windows 8. Then there is the hassle of trying to install my old software on a new system and the uncertainty of whether or not the old programs will run on the new computer. It’s a hassle. Change is hard. All change involves some loss. And all losses need to be grieved.
THE TRAIN PULLS OUT OF THE STATION AND WE ARE LEFT BEHIND
The alternative to learning the detour is remaining stuck unable to move forward. The alternative to buying the new computer is not getting my work done. And that is the problem we all face, when we resist change. Yes, we can dig our heels in and refuse to adapt to new conditions, but the consequence is we become increasingly irrelevant and unable to function in the new circumstances that are transforming the world all around us. We are simply left behind.
Of course we all know how adaptable churches are.
Q: How many church members does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Change? Change??? My grandmother paid for that light bulb!
IF WE DON’T ADAPT WE DIE!
Truth is if we don’t adapt, we die! The history of evolution is strewn with the fossils of creatures that could not or would not adapt in response to changes in their environment. So, how do we learn to grieve, adapt and move on?
CHANGE IS INEVITABLE
First, we need to learn to accept change is inevitable. Change happens, get over it. When we decide to reject all change, we are demonstrating our arrogance, and we need to be reminded that God is God and we are not. Change happens get over it.
ALLOW YOURSELF TO FREAK OUT
Second, when confronted with change, we can allow ourselves 15 to 30 minutes to freak out. When we hit the detour, pull over to the side of the road and have a tantrum, but then figure out what we’re going to do about it. Where is the road forward? Don’t sit stuck in the traffic of life just because we need to take a different path. Find the way forward!
SUITABLE RITUAL FOR GRIEVING
Third, when change is significant and not necessarily for the good, we can set aside a suitable time, place and ritual for grieving. When a loved one dies we have a memorial service. When a ship needs to be replaced, we decommission it. When people move or retire, we have a going away party. Having time and ritual for sadness in the face of loss can help us pick up and move on into the future.
The key in being free to grieve is being able to move on into the future.
So many people get caught up in nostalgia. Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson. You find the present tense and the past perfect.
Nostalgia is so seductive. Oh, I liked it better back then. We want to get away from our problems in the present by trying to get back to a time we remember as having been so much better. Sort of like our Peanuts cartoon.
WE’D ALL BE RUNNING IN THE SAME DIRECTION
Charlie: “What if everyone was like you? What if we all ran away from our problems? Huh? What then? What if everyone in the whole world suddenly decided to run away from his problems?”
Linus: “Well, at least we’d all be running in the same direction!”
ADAPT OR DIE
But we cannot live back then. We have to live in the present moment. And that doesn’t mean adopting everything that is new and fashionable. But it also means we cannot cling to the past. We adapt or die. We move ahead into the future or we cease to exist.
THE POWER OF MEMORY
At the same time we cannot live in the past, I want to acknowledge the power of memory. In Psalm 137 the poet said, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!” And for over two-thousand years Jews would end the Passover Feast with “next year in Jerusalem.” And then against all odds, when almost half of the Jews of the world had been wiped out, Israel was born, and the next year was in Jerusalem. The power of remembering in the present can contribute to miracles.
REMEMBERING IN THE LORD’S SUPPER
In the same way today, when we gather in a circle and we remember the love and sacrifice of Jesus, breaking the bread and sharing the cup in the present moment, great power can be recalled from the past into the present so that miracles can begin to happen.
“Merciful God, as sisters and brothers in faith, we recall anew those words and acts of Jesus Christ. Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blest and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said: ‘Take eat: This is my body.’ Jesus took a cup and after giving thanks, gave it to the disciples and said: ‘Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ We remember Christ’s promise not to drink of the fruit of the vine again until the heavenly banquet at the close of history, and we boldly say what we believe: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”