Grief should be the instructor of the wise. Sorrow is the knowledge. Lord Byron
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart, Who looks outside, dreams, who looks inside, awakes. Carl Jung
I call to God; God will help me. At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh deep sighs–he hears, he rescues. Psalm 55:16-17
I am still in the midst of focusing on and processing my past traumas, particularly grieving past losses and acknowledging some recent experiences. After the Sheila’s deathin 1980, I experienced a period of disillusionment followed by lament. Yet, as I now realize, I shortcut my lament and repressed the trauma in several ways and repeated the cycle with Joshua’s death in 2001 and with more recent grief.
Tomorrow, May 21, is the seventh anniversary of Joshua’s death. At times I have tried to face it–and thought I did, even by writing some past posts–but I realize now that I was more intent on avoiding the pain or numbing it. Escape was my primary coping mechanism and I usually escaped into my work as I consumed myself with speaking, teaching and writing. I used my workaholism as a way to avoid the pain while thinking I was coping well with the grief.
I was wrong.
I have learned, my friends, that Jesus is right. It is rather annoying to finally learn something you should have appropriated long ago. My “head” seemed to always escape into the future–planning what I will say, what I will do, what I will write, and how I will play the “hero.” The day was not sufficient to itself–I had to live in the future to avoid the present pain. I avoided the pain by investing my energies in the future rather than living through the evil (pain) of the day. Jesus’ caution is now more real to me than it has been in the past: “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34b).
“One day at a time” is a new mantra for me. Oh, I’ve known it, spoken it, advised it, but rarely lived it. And I don’t think I have ever known exactly what it meant in practical terms, at least in my own life. I’m only beginning to understand and live it now.
The call of Jesus is to live in the present–to experience the present without worry about the future. The present is all I really have and if I want to look life in the eye, I must live life today. To live one day at a time is to pray for and receive our “daily” bread without living in our tomorrows with anxiety. To avoid grief is to circumvent God’s healing process by escaping it, numbing it or attempting to transcend it by some kind of heroism rather than living through the pain.
With some recent grief recovery and dedicated attention to my emotional literacy, I am better prepared to live through tomorrow’s anniversary with some intentional focus just as I am living this day–hopefully–one day at a time. Most anniversaries I would spend my throwing myself into work and avoiding all memories which would trigger emotional hurt. But tomorrow, with the help and support of friends, I have a different plan.
Tomorrow my morning will begin with some self-care by playing golf (for the first time in 20 months) with my good friend Johnny Melton–to enjoy a morning with a friend in God’s green (literally) creation. To live in God’s presence surrounded by life. I will spend the afternoon with my wife talking, praying and visiting Joshua’s grave which I have not done in several years. The evening I will spend with the saints in community.
Tomorrow I will also begin a 48-hour fast from the blog-o-sphere, writing and email to rest, meditate and live with my reality; to be instructed by my grief. I thank everyone in advance for their concern, prayers and kindnesses.
Today–and for the next several days–my repeated prayer, taken from the Februray Divine Hours (but adjusted to the singular rather than plural), will be:
Most loving Father, whose will it is for me to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all my care on you who cares for me: Preserve me from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from me the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to me in your Son Jesus Christ my Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen