Grief Is Inevitable. It Doesn't Have to Be Inevitably Lonely.
Season two of Living and Effective explores the isolating, inescapable nature of grief.
“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21, CSB)
You cast me into my grave, but for 140 years, Lord, you have refused to draw the last breath from my lungs. Instead, you have left me a broken shell, a creature wandering landscapes stripped as bare as my heart; gullies awash in sudden storms threaten to drown me. I would welcome the reprieve.
I waited for you to reassemble the pieces of my shattered life, but you would not. I’ve now realized that these shards have become my life, and I exist only along their broken edges, in the empty spaces that cannot be restored. After all, that which you have torn down, none can rebuild.
You took everything I loved, and tore out the foundations from underneath me. You left me adrift, cast upon a merciless sea, where my anguish lay in wait for quiet moments, to curl forth and drag me into the depths. Can you, Lord, holy and complete, understand what it is not to be whole?
In my despair you conjured a tempest like the priest of a lesser god, and from it you questioned my grief. You put this love inside me. Am I not made in your image? Did you not consider what would happen when you breathed your divine spirit into earthly clay? Can you understand the chaos of holding such torment in so weak a vessel? How could one so powerful know the brokenness of a heart burdened with sorrow it was never meant to bear?
For years my soul has lain in ruins around me. Children again you have given to me. But you did not restore those whom you took, and their loss has darkened all of my days. Their absence ever near, ready to overwhelm. Did you know when you allowed this evil that I would be forever altered?
Even in moments of rest, I know the storm will return. The winds will howl and the sea will churn, the hail will pour forth from the sky and beat me into the dust. The lightning will cleave me in two and yet I will live.
Why haven’t you taken my life also? Do you consider it a mercy? I’m still here not because I am strong, but simply because my body does not die.
When my grief was fresh, and the fires of my torment burned fierce and hot, I was told to curse you and die, but I had received good at your hand. Should I not accept the evil that also comes? For you are the Lord my God.
You laid the foundations of the earth.
You store up snow and hail in the great storehouses of heaven.
You give the horse his might and clothe his neck with a mane.
You bind the chains of the Pleiades and loose the cords of Orion.
You could have spared me by your hand, but you did not.
You are the source of my affliction, and your terrors are arrayed against me, but there is no judge to arbitrate between us.
Do you understand that I would have left you? That your name should never have again passed over my lips for as long as I drew breath? But with your hand, you would not let me turn my face from you.
In my many years you have revealed yourself to me, and I am no longer deceived. I understand the true nature of the Lord, and I have seen the depths of the Almighty.
And “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the end he will stand on the dust. Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. I will see him myself; my eyes will look at him, and not as a stranger” (Job 19:25-27, CSB).
John B. Graeber is a writer living in Chattanooga, TN, with work at Curator Magazine, The Blue Mountain Review, Ekstasis Magazine, Glide Magazine, and Fathom Magazine, and featured poetry on Chattanooga's local NPR affiliate. He is also co-founder of Tributaries, a literary newsletter that explores the inspiration behind great writing. Follow him on Twitter.
Posted August 26, 2019