This past Saturday, a partner in the gospel, co-worker, friend, and beloved member of my church passed away suddenly. I was away on a reunion trip with some long-time college buddies, and the news hit me like the Florida heat I was in. Waves of grief rolled in like the tide in the most unexpected places and times – it was surreal being physically in such serene environs while being emotionally upheaved.
So many questions came to mind – What happened? How will his widow survive? What about the kids? How will we cope as a church community? What does this mean for my life? my work? my own family? At times, I found myself just wanting to burst out in tears, and at others, resolving not to waste my life because it is too short and not guaranteed.
I dreaded coming into the office this morning knowing that I would have to face my grief in the countenances of my beloved co-workers. We would have to face this together, and look for grace in each other’s words, tears, prayers, and memories. One of the hardest parts of being a pastor is taking up the role of hope-giver to meet the needs of the hurting all the while trying to manage and deal with one’s own hurt. Hope is easily dispensed, but often not internalized. The gospel is preached, but sometimes not believed by the one preaching.
So in the interests of my own grieving process, let me spout off a few thoughts about how to grieve with hope, and how to help others grieve with hope. My thoughts here are shaped by the conviction Stanley Hauerwas so eloquently wrote in his book, Resident Aliens.
“The faithful pastor keeps calling us back to God. In so doing, the pastor opens our imagination as a church, exposes us to a wider array of possibilities than we could have thought possible on our own…the congregation [can then be] free to explore alternatives to the status quo, possibly to investigate new forms of community whereby its members might become the sort of people who are willing to live on the basis of God’s plans for the world rather than their own.”
So in my grief (and possibly yours), let me pastor you. Let me open your imagination to the possibilities of hope in grieving. Here are some raw thoughts about death and grief…all with the aim of experiencing grace. Continue reading