Let me introduce you to my friend, Becky. I’ve not yet met Rebecca Rene Jones in person. But after reading her memoir, Broken for Good: How Grief Awoke My Greatest Hopes, I feel like I’ve sipped coffee with her on the backporch at the lake house and even cast a line with her at the lake’s edge.
As the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays fast approach, the reality of an empty chair at the supper table can run us down. Because Becky’s writing is so yummy and her insights are soul satisfying, I asked her to share some refreshing thoughts on grief with us. Follow Becky on Twitter and Facebook.
People ask how I knew that I wanted to write the book, after Dad died.
“It’s so personal, so raw. How did you know?”
Over the years, I’ve often wondered the same. Why write, and in doing so, re-live? What was there to re-visit? To unearth?
Mine was a garden-variety grief; kids bury parents. Maybe not at 18, but it’s not unnatural. And Dad died of cancer–not exactly a headline there, either.
So why a book? Why tell the story? What was there to say?
The bald truth is this: what I found on the other side of grief surprised me.
I found, of all impossible things: gifts.
Three Gifts of Grief
Make no mistake: it didn’t happen overnight, and it certainly wasn’t comfortable.
God never intended for us to die, to endure the severing trauma of losing each other, and I think, in some very actual way, these fragile human hearts physically break a little.
I am praying this doesn’t sound blithe, or callous, because in my soul it is anything but. It’s just that, having lived through this–with Dad having gotten sick and died, and me having my heart kicked in, split open, and re-built from the inside–I can breathe again.
Suffering bears fruit, and even grief, in the end, brings gifts.Suffering bears fruit, and even grief, in the end, brings gifts. Click To Tweet
1) Grief keeps us uncomfortable.
I mean that in a good way; discomfort can be a grace disguised. Grief is like walking around a beautiful wood with a wet sock or a bad knee.Grief is like walking around a beautiful wood with a wet sock or a bad knee. Click To Tweet
My mother-in-law and I went on a three-mile hike last Thanksgiving, and she has a bum knee, and forgot her brace. And as much as I knew she liked being outdoors–it was an absurdly beautiful late fall day, honeyed light filtering though the tops of the trees, thermometer brushing 60–she was ready to be done, too.
Grief does that: It keeps you eager for the walk to be over.
Not in a grouchy way, but in an honest way. It’s an ache that points due north, nudging us toward the truer country. It’s the same idea C.S. Lewis loved to write about so much, that German concept of sehnsucht, a rumbling hunger that reminds us that this world fits us wrong. Whatever we really need, we can’t find it here.
That longing is a gift, because it works like a tuning fork. It reminds you to be generous and spendy in love, now. It has a funny way of making you put others first and pursue things that don’t make any sense on paper.
2) Grief connects us to others.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 says:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
That means: Any genuine comfort is literally some distillation of God’s original comfort, and grief scoops us out, hollows us like Halloween pumpkins, so we can be empty, working vessels; so we can literally become incubators for comfort. Bread and balm for someone else.
People ask me if it is difficult, sharing so candid a story. They actually say: “Sharing your story.” And I’m not being cheeky right now, because I know what they mean, but honestly: Whoever said it’s my story? That I alone own it? Don’t we all belong to each other?
Aren’t we admonished to love sacrificially–like Jesus, to be poured out, our lives like a drink? Maybe that starts by being a little less prudish with our struggles and sharing them, when the Spirit leads, and resisting that itchy urge to over-manage reactions and outcomes?
Brokenness paves way for community; don’t discount it.Brokenness paves way for community; don't discount it. Click To Tweet
3) Grief asks all the right questions.
Some might think it’s depressing to write about loss, but I feel exactly the opposite. I think grief is a missed opportunity.
I think grief is one of only a few things that bring life to a screeching halt, slams on the brakes, and suddenly everything else seems vapid, utterly empty and pointless. I remember buying a black funeral dress, and walking the mall, flicking through racks of black frocks and looking at passers-by, thinking, Really? This is the best thing you can do with your life right now, go shopping? Go buy stuff? Soy candles?
That sounds wonderfully condescending, and of course, it was (please don’t ask where I spent yesterday afternoon). But that’s how grief works; you’re suddenly jolted wide-awake and it’s like everyone else is sleepwalking. Scales fall from your eyes, there’s such rude clarity. You can’t help but start asking all the right questions. Pressing ones, like Where is God? and Is He still good? and If He is all-present and all-powerful and all-good, well, then why this?
The hard part, I’ve learned, is that the big rumbling questions rarely lead to clean, diagrammed answers. But they often lead us somewhere better: they can lead us to see, at the very least, that God does care. That our sufferings also grieve him.
These questions–if we’re willing to honestly follow wherever they lead–so often bring us right to the feet of Jesus, the “man of sorrows,” the God who bent down and wept, who almost oozed incidental healings.
Really: people constantly interrupted Jesus, even clawed for his robe, and He couldn’t turn away; He could not not pay attention to their pain. He’d meet their eyes, and something in Him must have actually throbbed and ached.
Follow the questions, follow that ache, and you’ll see it all bubble up and boil over to the point that He silently shoulders a cross.
You’ll see Him love you so hard that He actually bleeds out.
You’ll watch God give you something far better than an answer: He’ll give you Himself.
To read more from Becky, order a copy of her book, Broken for Good: How Grief Awoke My Greatest Hopes.
NOTE: Friends, are you receiving my monthly e-Newsletters (restarted November 1st)? If not, click here to sign up. Don’t miss the December 1 newsletter–Becky is giving away a signed copy of Broken for Good: How Grief Awake My Greatest Hopes.