The Radical Pilgrimage Of Loss

The books say that we all will experience loss. The books also say that we will all experience the seven stages in the grief model. But no one ever tells you about the point of grief where you question everything that’s real. Because everything that’s real is now a part of reality that we can’t fathom. Even time takes on a dimension that is somehow created amidst the emotion. And emotions are all you feel and all you relate to.

Our generation is looking for people that have been broken. They are looking for people who have been torn down, weathered and beaten. They are looking for those souls to stand and praise God. But emerging from under the hurt is the struggle. One of the greatest lessons we can ever learn upon our path is that God leads the way, and for that, we are called to surrender.

“God is in control” sounds like a bumper sticker faith that is supposed to somehow slap a band-aid on a pain that never seem to fade. But loss awakens us to the fact that God allowed our loss, and God allows our feelings, no matter how upset and irreverent they become. Yet, God will not allow us to travel alone.

A minister used to preach a sermon about surrendering. He used an illustration about a man who was willing to give the keys of his life to God. All of the keys to the doors of his life … all except one. Of course, God asked for the last key and required him to let go of that key as well. The man wrestled with God and told him it was just a key to a little room with not much in it, why was it necessary to release that key? As a child, I always wondered what in the world was in that room? I have come to realize that that room represents something different for every individual. And as I experienced loss, I realized that room represented me letting God have control over my grief experience. This included my present, my past, and my future.

One wonders why circumstances never change, and why tears never cease to flow, and why the suspended state of grief filters into every aspect of our being. This is because grief is a lot like love. Many emotions are fleeting, lasting only for a moment. However, love bears all things. Love outlasts the emotion, and resides in our hearts. Grief is almost a mirror image of love. Grief rides along the continuum of daily events, calling upon our reaction to the new, more empty life. It stays with us, and we have to learn how to live within, and eventually outside, our grief experience.

God calls upon us to stand (Ephesians 6:13). This means getting out of bed, going to work, getting back into church. It’s true that you may not be able to stay at work the entire day, or last at church through the altar call. But the people around us need to know that while we’re hurting, while we’re questioning, we are making the effort to live. And God is calling us to live.

Or maybe that’s not the case. Undoubtedly, we will be angry with God at some point in our loss. We don’t care if God is calling upon us to stand, or if we ever draw closer to Him. Even within that anger, God is working in us a valley. Psalm 23, probably one of the most quoted parts of Scripture, is about loss. The valley of the “shadow of death” is grief. We are calling out to God in fear. We are crying out His name for calm and restoration of the soul. “Deep calls to deep,” according to Psalm 42:7.

Our loss will be our only focal point for an undetermined amount of time. Every individual experiences loss in their own way; picking through the thought processes of their beliefs in life after death, and their picture of God. Everything seems like too much when we are under emotional strain, and that’s why we cry for calm. And that’s why the end of the Psalm closes with “surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.”

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God continually chisels off pieces of us. It hurts when big pieces are broken off. It is all for the finished, refined and polished, final product of a shining soul.

We are broken because in our brokenness we hear the voice of Jesus. We are broken because only in the brokenness are we fully aware of the power of God. We are broken because people need to hear the stories of people who have been through the fire and that experience pulled them into a deep, committed relationship with the God of all things.

[Kelly Carter is a teen center director in Atlanta, Ga. She uses the experiences that God has given her to try to impact a generation of souls.]

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