I’ve recently been faced with mourning the loss of my father, again. I didn’t grow up with my father. I lived with him briefly the summer before starting High School. We were not close when he died over 10 years ago. I didn’t want to go to the funeral and I remember being so angry at him for taking his own life. A wise mentor and friend told me at that time, “Go, you will mourn this loss at different stages in your life. Go, or you will regret it.” So, I went. Looking back now, I am glad I did.
Mourning is important. Over the last two years I have been learning how to mourn losses big and small. Some losses from long ago that I had buried deep inside, others fresh atop the surface of my heart.
Psalm77:1-6(HCSB) “I cry aloud to God, and He will hear me.2 I sought the Lord in my day of trouble. My hands were continually lifted up all night long; I refused to be comforted. 3 I think of God; I groan; I meditate; my spirit becomes weak. 4 You have kept me from closing my eyes; I am troubled and cannot speak. 5 I consider days of old, years long past. 6 At night I remember my music; I meditate in my heart, and my spirit ponders.”
It was hard for me to learn to mourn. I didn’t like to cry, unless it was at a sappy movie. I liked to live in my head and come to God after seemingly figuring things out on my own. Bringing my disappointments and longings to God was so uncomfortable at first. It was scary to say out loud to God things such as, “I know that I may never get married or have a family of my own. I long for this but it may not happen for me. Help me to trust your plan.” Yet it has built a level of intimacy that is beyond what I could have thought possible. As I brought all things to God he granted contentment.
“Thawing frozen emotions is like warming frostbitten fingers; it hurts. But it’s better than gangrene and amputation.” – unknown
Mourning the loss of someone you loved is difficult. Mourning the loss of a father I could have loved, whose love and protection I longed for, this too was hard. As adults, we process things from childhood and are called to admit the damage of what others did and did not do. We are called to go back to those very people, face them, ask questions and seek understanding. I will never get to do this. It took me many years to really face and acknowledge this was something I needed to mourn rather than just accept as fact. I had to mourn in order to forgive him and myself. I had to mourn to separate my view of God, and men, through the lens of my relationship with my father. I had to be willing to bring it all to God and deal with even those thoughts of God’s sovereign role in it.
Psalm 77:10-15(HCSB) “So I say, “I am grieved that the right hand of the Most High has changed.” 11 I will remember the Lord’s works; yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders. 12 I will reflect on all You have done and meditate on Your actions. 13 God, Your way is holy. What god is great like God? 14 You are the God who works wonders; You revealed Your strength among the peoples. 15 With power You redeemed Your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.”
God cares about my mourning and grief. He wants me to let him into it. He desires to be my comfort. He desires to heal. Honest grieving over disappointments opens me up to God’s grace. Joseph acknowledged God’s sovereign ability to use even his brother’s sin to accomplish God’s good intentions. My past has influenced me, it is a part of who I am, but it does not define me. Christ defines me and God has used every part of my story to His glory. By God’s amazing grace my parents are not my reference for love or relationships, He is. Who I am with others, my tenderness, genuineness, joy or vulnerability, these are traits only possible by God’s grace. As I grieved, forgave and stepped into restoration it helped me to pay attention to how I was feeling in any given moment, to let pain in, big and small, every day. This also allowed me to begin to cultivate empathy for others. Ultimately, mourning daily also freed me to experience more joy in each day.
Mourning my disappointments has allowed me to mourn better with others and love others better. I face my longings and disappointments each day. When I bring them to God, I am able to experience comforting grace amidst pain and face reality. It allows me to let go of the false concept of being ‘rewarded for doing good’ or trying to strive for perfection. It sets me free to be the best version of myself, the faltered, imperfect version. It allows me to transcend my self-centeredness and be able to look to others needs. It frees me to enjoy and live each day to it’s fullest.
I’ve learned to mourn major disappointments such as those from childhood, or caused by those I loved most. I have also learned to mourn the daily disappointments, such as failures at work, at the gym or when I disappoint others. Loss can produce godliness. It does in me. Looking back now I would not trade my pain. God used, and continues to use it to help me become who He always knew I could be. He continues to use it to allow me to love others better so they can see Him in me. Even in the good times, I sometimes need to pause and mourn the small things. It can be a song on the radio or a passing comment of someone that triggers something. Instead of shaking it, I pause and let it in. Great beauty will always come from the ashes.
Is61:3 (NIV) “and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”