The radio just isn’t something I listen to. I mean the actual radio, as in tuning into a certain channel for the morning show, or Oldies, Jazz, Top 40, etc. Partly because here it’s too hard to try to understand in my limited Mongolian. Even in Russia, where we lived for 11 years and were both fluent in Russian, it was a strain. Just not enjoyable. I do purchase a ton of music though. My song list of 3,067 songs (I know, not many compared to most) is pretty eclectic to say the least. There are songs I simply enjoy as they bring back memories, or simply transport me to another place. There are other songs that are simply there as an intro, a prelude, to another song I enjoy. Some are for running, cycling and working out, and others are for relaxing and sleeping. It just depends.
And then there are the songs. Not just the songs but the songs. They move me to tears, especially as of late, but perhaps not why you may think. One song is a classical song. No words, no lyrics, no voice. Simply just instruments that for whatever reason, usher in something that is a “peace that passes all my earthly understanding” and gives me a sense of hope. I listen to it over and over again, and if a symphony or orchestra is playing it too quickly, I just won’t listen unless it is played in the correct tempo. Perhaps I’m a little too picky 🙂
The other song, sometimes played right after the one I mentioned above, is a loud electric indie song that I play over and over fairly loudly. It has lyrics, but the lyrics are not what draw me to tears. Though I sing them, yelling them at times, it’s not the words that I’m drawn to. It’s the emotion-it’s the intensity. The emotion of the song is what brings out the sometimes guttural cries from my heart. It’s the emotion and intensity of the music that brings me to tears the past two years because it’s as if my heart is crying out with just as much intensity.
Why? Why cry? Why is my heart shouting out with such intensity, such passion?
Two years ago, we were gong through a fog, a time of confusion, a journey through the forest with no clear picture of where the path was. God was leading us away from Russia, we knew that. But what we didn’t know was where God was leading us to. It was before we knew God was leading us to Mongolia. But since we knew God was leading us away, it was a time of grieving what we were losing. I, of course, didn’t really have a full grasp on what I was feeling. I went to our intimate church body one night, and during the time we were singing songs to God, my heart began to cry out in these deep, moans and yelling. Tears were streaming down my face, yet I couldn’t explain where this was coming from or why. Even though I am an emotional guy, it still didn’t make sense.
Processing this with Iris and my spiritual director, both people whom have experienced/experience deep grief, they both believe that’s what that expression was….a grieving heart. My grieving heart. It was grieving the goodbyes, the “what will no longer be” moments and things that we were leaving. My heart had been in mourning, and was trying to make it’s voice heard. It needed to grieve, it needed to be heard and not suppressed. In order for my heart to grieve, it had to speak up, yell, shout….groan deep from within so that I could finally notice it was even there, and then I could allow it to grieve.
Because of this, I’m learning to allow my heart to grieve more often. There have been some changes that I have been walking through recently (future posts, I’m promise) that are bringing about loses in my life that I am grieving. Life is a series of starts and endings, constants and losses. In my mind, when we left Russia, the loss was over, everything else is too small to grieve. And I’m here to tell you that this is a lie. It’s not true. All losses are losses. And all losses need to be grieved. Going from needing to be swaddled up to being able to walk; being at home most of the day with our parents to heading off to school; even from siting on our parents lap while they read us a book to us going off by ourselves to read on our own-these are all things we became accustomed to that turn into losses. And it’s ok, it’s just a part of life. Some of us are better at engaging with the losses than others. Suppression of the losses, however, is never good. That causes us to miss something, to lose something. And that “something”? That, that is celebration.
In his book, The Needs of the Heart, Chip Dodd writes, “…If we can grieve well, we will live euphorically. Euphoria means to bear life well. If we can love in the midst of knowing that we can lose this person or this passion, what a treasured experience the daily life with the beloved is. Every day we choose them, knowing that our time on the earth is limited, no matter what. Every day we can find gratitude to be with them. And then when they are gone, we know that we were fully present while life was happening. The only way to be present with the beloved is to be able to live in the midst of grief and celebration. Not only do we need to grieve, we also need to the opportunity to grieve.”
But grieving isn’t just about losing someone. It could be losing that job, or moving to another town. You’re losing things that you’ve known, grew comfortable in, things that you enjoyed. Not that you won’t find things similar again, you probably will, but you wont have those things that you had before.
Michael Phelps, the world’s greatest and most decorated Olympian athlete proved how capable he was in his final Olympic appearance this past August in Rio. In an interview I watched of him he said “I knew this was the last one…the last time getting in the pool, the last time putting on a suit, the last time getting into the cool down pool.” He said “that’s why I was more emotional in these games than in London [four years prior].” Here, he was able to engage in the losses, the “lasts,” the “never more will be’s.” I have incredible respect for him because of the gold medals, but I have even more respect for him because he is willing to go to the hard places that many don’t go-engaging in the grief. Because of this, he was able to celebrate his victories, accomplishments, prizes and he was able to show gratitude for all that he learned in the process. That is celebration as God intended.
I believe one reason why this election year has been so divisive between followers of Jesus is because many of us don’t know how to engage with grief. We all know that this country has changed from what it was when we were younger. It doesn’t matter whether this is your first election or your 18th (making you at least 90 years old), things have changed. We also know that things will be different after this November, and we are having a hard time grieving our losses. Losses aren’t bad, per se, if we engage in them. When we engage them, we grow by learning a lot about ourselves, each other and God. But we must engage our grief.
Engaging in our grief is what allows us to celebrate. It allows us to become more gracious people, more thankful people, more honest people and more vulnerable people. Not just towards each other, but towards ourselves and towards Christ.
As I engage with grief of losses more these coming days, will you join me in engaging with yours as well? Perhaps in a month or so, I’ll be able to write about those things I have been able to celebrate. It would be wonderful if you could also write about your celebrations also. I’ll be asking for those things at some point on here, but for now, let’s walk the hard road of engaging our grief and letting our hearts speak out, maybe for the first time. Let’s take that first step together……
be blessed today…..and in those hard days to come