The other night while I was standing at the stove frying the falafel for dinner my four year old comes into the kitchen, takes his thumb out of his mouth, and asks “When are we allowed to see someone again? Is the sickness over yet?” He pops his thumb back in his mouth as he waits for my answer. I feel the tears welling in my eyes as I look down at his sweet little face. “It’s going to be a little while still, buddy.”
I know he’s missing his best friend from preschool who lives just two houses up the road from us. So close, and yet so far. The promise that we will FaceTime him soon doesn’t suffice. He wants his friends in flesh and blood. He longs to chase them around the playground, build block towers together and race cars.
And I know he’s not the only one. We’re all longing for things right now. We’ve all entered, willingly or not, into this season of Lent. We’re just not sure when the Easter moment will come.
David Kessler, a death and grieving expert, recently said in a podcast “We are all dealing with the collective loss of the world we once knew.” This heaviness, which he names grief, keeps many of us awake at night and hangs over us when we get out of bed in the morning.
Though we’re trying our best to stay positive, to make meaning, and to find the hidden treasures in these strange and quiet times, we are simultaneously grieving the loss of so many things. Our sense of safety, for one. The loss of thousands of lives. Jobs we loved and routines that grounded us. We are grieving the loss of physical touch and connection, of gathering for meals and for worship. How I long to cuddle my sweet nephew and sit on the same couch with my friends, refilling their glasses and the chip bowl and laughing the night away. I had no idea what I had, until it was gone.
We know it won’t last forever because dark nights never do, but I think there is power in acknowledging our grief. Yes there might be others struggling more than I am, but hurt is hurt and when I take a moment to sit with mine and look it straight in the eyes, compassion for myself and for others grows. And empathy is something we can’t have too much of in this world.
Why Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? – Psalm 10:1
How long, Lord? Will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? – Psalm 13:1
These Psalms show us that the discipline of lament is a rich and integral part of the Christian faith. We can let our sorrow, our helplessness and frustration, be the energy that catapults us into the Father’s arms. We are not alone in our tears — our compassionate God is with us in the darkness, sharing in our pain.
N.T. Wright wrote in an article recently, “As the Spirit laments within us, so we become, even in our self-isolation, small shrines where the presence and healing love of God can dwell. And out of that there can emerge new possibilities, new acts of kindness, new scientific understanding, new hope.”
We are all in this together. My prayer is that as we bring our grief to God that he would make us spaces where healing can happen, change can happen, goodness can happen, as he shows us new and creative ways to virtually reach out and hold one another’s hands.