This is a talk I gave in 2003. I needed to 'hear' it again today.
This time of year is difficult for many, especially for those who have lost a loved one. I spoke at a 'Service of Remembrance' this past Friday. I told about a deleted scened from Jim Carrey's Bruce Almighty as my jumping off point.
Bruce answered prayers yes and got in the way of a young man eventually becoming a poet and an older woman eventually reconciling with her sister.
Morgan Freeman as God said, "You see Bruce, triumph is born out of our of struggle. Faith is the alchemist. If you want to paint pictures like this you have to use some dark colors."
Many who attended shared about their loved one and their experience of grieving. They were vulnerable with the dark colors God is using in their lives at this time. They touched hearts with their raw honesty.
Here is a portion of what I shared.
Deleted scene from Bruce Almighty God by Morgan Freeman, "You see Bruce, triumph is born out of our of struggle. Faith is the alchemist. If you want to paint pictures like this you have to use some dark colors."
I believe God is good and that He is bigger than our pain. That gives us the freedom to be honest with where we are tonight. Tonight we are not focusing on the triumph born in our struggle, although I do believe faith and trust in God during struggle is important. No, tonight I don't want you to feel one bit of pressure to get anywhere. I want you, us to have the freedom and honesty to look at the dark colors God is using to paint in our lives right now.
Root of Suffering We weren’t supposed to be here tonight. In the beginning, in the garden the world was different. No death and suffering. This world today was not supposed to be as it is. Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Following that, God pronounced that there would now be death for us...from dust you are and to dust you will return.
Someone you know has returned to the dust. And it hurts. Our souls are painted with some dark colors. Not dark bad, but dark painful because in the beginning we were never supposed to experience death and separation. Our souls are not designed to bury those we love and return them to dust, so our hearts ache.
A Grace Disguised by Gerald Sittser That is our condition today. It is best to walk into it. Gerald Sittser wrote this book, A Grace Disguised. I decided to use this tattered cover and copy because it really fits us more where we are than bringing in a nice shiny new copy like I was tempted to get. Like the shining face I am tempted to put on when my soul is in tatters and I hurt and am sad or mad and it's messy. Gerald Sittser’s mom, wife, and daughter died in the same car wreck. This book chronicles his journey. I recommend it to each of you.
Sittser says this, " ..My sister, Diane, told me that the quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise. I discovered in that moment that I had the power to choose the direction my life would head, even if the only choice open to me, at least initially, was either to run from the loss or to face it as best I could. Since I knew that darkness was inevitable and unavoidable, I decided from that point on to walk into the darkness rather than try to outrun it, to let my experience of loss take me on a journey wherever it would lead, and to allow myself to be transformed by my suffering rather than to think I could somehow avoid it. I chose to turn toward the pain, however falteringly, and to yield to the loss, though I had no idea at the time what that would mean."
Gerald Sittser allowed himself the freedom to explore the dark strokes God was using to paint his soul.
Others in History who have Grieved Who are others who agree with heading that direction? Let’s look at scripture.
Job-Job16:20 My eyes pour out tears to God
Joseph Genesis 45:2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him.
Isaiah-Lamenting over the desolation in Moab- Isaiah 16:9-So I weep...I drench you with tears!
Jeremiah-The Weeping Prophet-Jer 9:1 O that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. Lamentations 2:18-19 The hearts of the people cry out to the Lord. O wall of the daughter of Zion, let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief, your eyes no rest. Arise, cry out in the night as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.
David-A man after God's own heart-Psalm 6:6 I am worn out from groaning: all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my bed with tears.
Paul-Acts 20:19-I served the Lord with humility and tears. To those in Corinth he said, "For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you---"
Jesus-Hebrews 5:7-He Offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears.
John 11:35 Jesus wept. The messiah with perfect vision of eternity and perfect awareness of the present, wept. Blessed are those who mourn.
Community of Brokenness As you can see there are many in the Bible who have hurt and mourned. They are part of our community tonight. Mostly we think of community in terms of our present time. Tonight, expand your view of community to include those across the ages who have shared their ache, shared the dark strokes painted on their souls.
Gerald Sittser calls it a community of brokenness. By being here tonight you have chosen to be a part of this community of brokenness. By joining with others in pain you are being changed. You are owning the fact that our world isn't such a safe place. We don't always have positive experiences in the middle of favorable circumstances. We really are not in control and it is important to connect with others who are understanding this too.
Together, tonight we enter with courage into the dark strokes being painted by God. The result, maybe tonight or down the road will be love.
By entering the dark strokes we will learn to love more deeply. As Sittser says, "Your soul will expand."
You may not want to love more deeply at this point. That’s ok. It hurts and the pain is fresh. Who would ever want to feel that pain again? But by embracing the pain, feeling the weight of your loss, and being with others who connect with the level of your pain, your capacity to love will increase.
Grieving keeps your soul from withering. Entering into community keeps your soul from withering. Choosing to love again keeps your soul from withering. Eventually, this allows you to experience the vibrant beauty of all God is painting in you.