“Let’s talk about your grief”. It’s not everyday I meet someone who would be so direct with me. A few months ago while at a Christmas party, a dear friend of ours and local pastor said point blank this statement to me. At first I was taken a back by his directness and then in a moment was brought to tears by his compassion.
We could have sat there a whole hour just talking about surface level things but he chose to get right to the core, the heart of what I was facing. It was a few weeks before Christmas and he knew that it was difficult going through a holiday while still grieving the loss of my dad. As a minister we are usually the ones asking the hard questions, listening to needs/pain/hurt, praying for others and their situation. It is rare that we ourselves get ministered to.
I can see why so many burn out, heck, I feel like, at times, burn out is one small spark away. I can see why so many pastors and their spouses feel isolated, with out friends, alone, lonely, hurting, sad… The day in and day out of caring for others while you yourself are hurting or grieving can be unbearable. That’s just it. We were never meant to carry it on our own. I am learning that when Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) He meant that when I am feeling overwhelmed, burdened, afraid, alone, hurt… perhaps I am carrying a weight I was never meant to and sure is heck is not from Him.
So let’s talk about my grief. At times it is deep; like throwing a rock down a well and not hearing it splash…where is the bottom? In my mind I know it can’t possibly go on forever but I can not see the end or hear the water below so in my heart I feel as if the pain might never stop. Other times I am overcome by tears and with out fail bring on the “ugly cry”. You know the one; snot, gasps for air, mascara all over, the whole works. It’s just plain ugly but feels so good. In L.A. we have this gross, toxic substance called smog. It literally covers the city. Too many people, driving too big of cars in too small a space= toxic coated city (sounds very glamorous, huh?). It rarely rains which does not help the situation. However when it does…oh boy what a beautiful site, after the rain. The sky is clear to the point you can see snow capped mountains in the distance… you can actually see, ‘distance’. My tears and ugly cry remind me of this. Tears wash over me in a way that bring release and for a moment I feel like I can see the ‘distance’. Far beyond me there are mountains and on that mountain snow and in that snow someone is playing and laughing and experiencing joy. And I am reminded that my grief is not the end of me. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
Two things that I am learning at this moment. One, When I am overwhelmed and feel like the weight of the world is on me I realize I am trying to carry a burden that Jesus never desired for me. This is a constant, at times daily struggle. So each day when I start to feel that strangle of expectation I put on myself I stop and lay it at His feet. And two, I am realizing that my grief is real and painful and difficult but I must GO THROUGH IT. If I stopped before the ugly cry I would never get to see that in the distance there is joy. I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable, transparent and open about what I feel. I am giving myself space and time to feel what needs to be felt. I’m talking to a counselor (gasp, even pastors need this!) and I am letting the ugly come, mascara and all.