Sunday, December 09, 2012

In Sorrow

Loss and grief have a way of making life feel so bleak and lonely.  There is an irony in that, for everyone suffers and experiences loss -one would think that those experiences would be part of what makes us feel like we belong, like we aren't alone.  But such is not the case.

In Propagandhi's song Without Love, we are given a bleak and painfully lonely picture of loss:
All in nature ends in tragedy and I was the first to finally fade away from my grandfather’s memories. How long ’til the day my memories of him finally fade away? Dissolving into gray. Is breathing just the ticking of an unwinding clock? Just counting down the time it takes for you to comprehend the sheer magnitude of every single precious breath you’ve ever wasted? I did everything I could. I bargained with the universe to take my life instead of hers. But no amount of money, drugs or tears could keep her here. What purpose did her suffering serve? Is breathing just the ticking of an unwinding clock? Just counting down the time it takes for you to comprehend the sheer magnitude of every single precious breath you’ve ever wasted? So much misery. So much indifference to so much suffering that we can become tempted by appeals to hatred. But this world ain’t nothing more than what we make of it. Revenge ain’t no solution to the inevitable pain that every single one of us must face in losing the kindred spirits in our lives. Lives so brief, so disappointing, so confusing. As Cronie slipped away I held her in my arms, reduced to “Please don’t leave me. What will I do?” But this cosmic sadness is just here to remind you that without Love, breathing is just the ticking of…
Loss makes us feel... helpless.  Powerless.  We try to "bargain with the universe."  We are reduced to helpless cries -"Please don't leave me.  What will I do?"- and an emptiness that gnaws away at us from inside.

Questions flood in.  "Why, God?!"  "How long will this continue?"  "Why do I cry out to You for so long and it seems my cries go off into nowhere?"  And there is no answer.  With every breath, with every cry out from bottom, our pit feels deeper, the light seems further away, and the gulf between us and God (and us and others) feels bigger and bigger.  Our demand for an explanation or a reprieve leaves us feeling only more desolate and empty as our eyes become engorged with the loss before us.

But what if the "answer" is not in getting answers to those questions?  Of course we want the pain to end.  Who wouldn't?!  But if that does not or cannot happen, what if the answer is not in escaping loss but in finding something or Someone else within that loss, within that pain?  Isn't that what it is all about?  When we mainly speak of loss, we mean loss of fellowship and love and relationship and a bond we once shared with someone.  That is what that song above ends with, rhetorically asking us, "Without love..." what is there?  Even from the author's bleak and athetistic perspective, he still recognizes that the only thing that makes life "life" is love, is having an "other" with us. 

Could it be that God -the God who, Himself, exists eternally as a love-harmony of Three Persons... Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- built us that way?

What if the paradox is in finding that there is love and fellowship in the pain, the loneliness of loss?  There are others with us in our pain.  And, though we would not expect to find Him there, God is there, as well.  This is what makes the True God, the God of Christianity, different from all other conceptions of "god" out there.  God became flesh and dwelt among us (cf. John 1:1,14).  His name is Jesus.  God came down to us, to meet us, to suffer for us and with us, to bring us back to Himself. 

And as He hung upon the cross, He remembered the words of a song, too...
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
My God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest..." (Psalm 22)
As author Tullian Tchividjian points out in his book, Glorious Ruin, maybe our temptation in suffering is to ask the wrong question.  Maybe instead of asking things like "Why" or "When" we ought to be asking, "Who?"  Or, since I prefer to avoid phrasing things as "ought to's" with such a sensitive topic as personal suffering, maybe the answer is in recognizing Who is there, right there with us, right there beside us, walking next to us hang-in-hand or at least offering to.

There is always One who is there.  Deitrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheren pastor and theologian, was a part of the German resistance during WWII and was involved in the plot to assasinate Hitler.  He was captured and kept in prison by the Nazi's before he was eventually hanged.  He discovered who he called the "Suffering God".  It was not an idea or a theological concept.  It was a He.  Jesus is the Suffering God.  Bonhoeffer lived his days in communion and fellowship with Him -even and especially during the most bleak and despairing of his final days.

The paradox is that as we experience loss, as we see loved ones consumed by physical death or other forms of death (addiction, mental illness, sin, selfishness), we are plunged into an abyss of loneliness.  "Please don't leave me.  What can I do?"  But it is there, at the bottom, that we find that there is One who walks in those shadows and has walked in them before.  He walked in the deepest and darkest of shadows so that we would never be left alone.

Without Love...

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