22 December 2016
The Battle belongs to the Lord: Part 4
Part Four: The sense of an ending
Soar we now where Christ has led,
following our exalted Head;
made like him, like him we rise,
ours the cross, the grave, the skies.
I had the privilege of being Diane's “Spiritual Accompanier” for the last three years. Being that although grand sounding in its title, is really all about making a simple space for the person coming to spend time with me, to discern God's accompanying of them. I try to not get in the way, but pray myself out-of-the-way so that whoever has come to reflect on their story, in God, may realize more fully what is happening between them and the divine.
I was struck, from my perspective how, for Diane, when she came to see me at the start of Advent, it looked, to me at least, as if she had suddenly moved into a place where 'the cross' and 'the grave' were no longer so vivid in her life and ministry. Now it seemed, all of a sudden, in a way, it was 'the skies' that she could see opening up clearly: there was a small and unusual sense of an ending for me, like an earlier chapter had concluded and the page turned onto many new things.
I am not suggesting for a moment there was even a hint of all being accomplished or everything finished for Diane. In fact for a church-leader, December is about not just 'doing-Christmas' but getting the next sequence of things ready too; the work can feel quite unceasing at times. In many different ways it's incredibly sad that there is no longer any time in this earthly life for Diane to experience more of that 'Easter-Sunday' flavour of life.
Many of us at many times know, all-too-well, the Good Friday versions of living out our attempts at the Christian life. When we do get that sense of soaring though, as Charles Wesley speaks, within the joy of the resurrection: that includes cross, grave and skies, I think we find heaven here on earth. The new creation has broken in. I'm glad Diane sensed that.
Right now in our shock, dismay, disbelief, grief, numbness, anger, elation, bewilderment, relief, trauma (all these and many others are part of grief), we may feel like we are fragmenting inside. This grief will also revive in us the memories of many other endings and griefs. Many times those grieving around us and alongside us are following that river of sorrow quite differently to us. We might find ourselves feeling alone in grief.
There, God can work, but sometimes that's not possible to see or understand. What we can draw on in those empty places is the solidarity of others feeling alone in grief too. Many of us, when sensing an ending, feel stuck (for a while or at least in some moments); it’s then we can notice that the weeping, the aching is part of discovering the love we feel for those we lose.
Knowing that love and knowing that losing, helps us know how much we can make use, in grief, of hope. Of course, Paul reminds us in Romans 8 that hope that is certain, isn't really hope at all: that's the paradox of a life of faith. We find ourselves needing hope even more when we cannot see it; like when we are faced with fragmentation, desperation and hopelessness.
In the days, weeks and months ahead, perhaps this grief will sometimes feel like that, in need of hope: you can use your grief and hope for solidarity with those in the most hopeless places of our city and our world. Also, you may choose to think of how, in Christ, we can, in the eternal scheme of things, soar, where Jesus first led. That's the kind of gravity that our faith and hope has, a home in God and eternal happiness.