He was despised and rejected–
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care. Isaiah 53: 3
With a sharp intake of breath, the air rushes into my pink lungs. It has the consistency of cotton, and it gets stuck in my throat and mouth. The moment the oxygen hits the alveoli, the very small sacs which hold the life giving molecule, my chest begins to ache. My heart begins to pound, and I am overwhelmed. The involuntary response of exhale begins almost immediately, but as a sigh deep from within my chest cavity. The sigh is an almost near silent scream. I look around and no one even turns their head to see the origin of this agonized breath.
How could they not notice?
Did they not just hear that earth shattering scream from within my chest?
To my ears, to my heart, it was an exhale of agony, of intense noise, an explosion from within. Yet, to the chaotic world around me, it did not resonate even the slightest ripple on the sound waves.
Grief is crushing me. It is making the intake of air, the most basic of life’s functions, a chore, an almost debilitating effort. I do not want to die, but I am having a hard time mustering up the energy to move my chest up and down to fill my lungs with air. The world moves and spins and continues to go on as if nothing has happened, as if nothing has changed.
Can you not see that everything is different?
I am different!
Nothing will ever be the same. I opened the proverbial “Pandora’s box” of my sorrow, and I cannot breathe. I cannot go back to the way it was before, running parallel to my story, as if that portion of me didn’t happen, didn’t exist, as if it was another life or someone else’s. My past has collided with my present. What was once trapped, lost, numbed, stuffed, and choked into a dark corner of my memory, my soul, has been released. It has blasted into my present with such a incapacitating force that I am undone.
But it is only from within.
No one can see that my brain has unleashed the foul memories of the past into my present. Like a silent horror film, they interject themselves into my day, hijacking my present moments. The loss never acknowledged now fights its way to the forefront, making sure it is seen, heard, and recognized.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are the stages of grief according to Elisabeth Kubler Ross. Yet, I think she forgot several stages like brain explosion, elephant on the chest, blinding pain, tunnel vision, and isolation. Grief is isolating because no matter how many words I use to try to explain the searing fire in my chest of loss I cannot create an adequate picture of my heart. There is a new normal that must be created in my life because of loss now recognized.
“If normal, natural, reversible loss is like a broken limb, then catastrophic loss is like an amputation. The results are permanent, the impact incalculable, the consequences cumulative. Each new day forces one to face some new and devastating dimension of the loss. It creates a whole new context for one’s life” (Sittser, 2004, p. 32).
Yet, it is not just death that brings about such catastrophic loss, but divorce, abuse, natural disasters, rape, violence and so many other things can rip a chasm into the normality of life.
How does one continue day in and day out when reminders bring the waves of water crashing over your head once again? When questions swirl around drowning out the present? Where was God? Why did He allow this to happen? Why did He not intervene? Why can’t I find my healing, freedom?
The questions drive feelings, the feelings drive behavior, and the behavior lends to more grief.
How can I see the God of love, compassion, and peace when the air hurts my lungs and darkness is my companion? I try to cry out the Father, but there seems to be no answer. I shout into the void. I try to run, numb, avoid, or escape my grief because it seems paralyzing.
I want it back in the box.
I harden my heart to shut out the pain, but in doing so I look inward instead of upward. I loose sight of the fact that God is close to the broken hearted. It is the very brokenness of my heart that brings Him close to me. It is my own hardened heart distancing me from the Father’s embrace. My own fear, hurt, stubbornness, selfishness, and sin.
How can I get so close to the Father of Light when I am engulfed in sorrow?
But that’s just it.
He is the man of sorrows.
He is grief.
He is the deep sigh escaping my lips.
Welcoming a season of grief into my life isn’t debilitating, it is allowing the man of sorrows to come in and refine me. Embracing the memories, the Pandora’s box, and the tears brings me into an intimacy with the one “acquainted with the deepest grief.” It is His breath in my lungs. It is His heart in my chest, and it is His sorrow in my soul. For He too grieves for the losses in my life, the abuse I have suffered, and the death I have caused, yet He never once turned His face away.
He was there, and He is here.
Grief is far from pleasant. It is overwhelming at its best and paralyzing at its worst. Yet, becoming intimate with grief draws me into the arms of the man of sorrows. As I draw near to Him, He draws near to me, close to my broken heart. He is refining me. It will be a messy, tiring, painful, beautiful, refining, roller coaster process.
But now, as I breath in the grief, I breath in my God, and He envelops me, so I can learn to live with this new normal of loss in my story and hope in my heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for sadness has a refining influence on us.
– By, Christy Denne
Stittser, J. (2004). A Grace Disguised. Grand Rapid, MI: Zondervan