“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but a history, and if I don’t stop writing that history at some quite arbitrary point, there’s no reason why I should ever stop. There is something new to be chronicled every day. Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.”– C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
Today is the 25th anniversary of my dad’s death.
25 years. 25 long years. And, I miss him so much.
Sometimes words can’t describe how we humans feel when we experience death & tragedy. Grief can lay dormant, and then all of the sudden well up and explode from the depths of our soul. The feelings can be overwhelming and are normally accompanied by fear and sadness.
Most years I write a spiritual or theological reflection that helps me process the grief of my dad’s death. I write about Jesus’ peace, love, and resurrection, his humanity, his divinity and more. I really do believe Jesus is the tangible answer to my pain and grief wrapped up in my dad’s death. And, I really do believe he is the hope for everyone’s pain and for all death [John 11:25].
But this year is different. I simply feel angry, sad, and overwhelmed.
My dormant grief awakened.
This last year has been extremely difficult. Well, maybe “difficult” is the wrong word. Exhausting. This year has been exhausting.
Parenting is draining. Steph and I added our third boy to the Elliott family, Sammy Clive. And our twin boys, August & Abel, finally became three-nagers. They have big feelings and thoughts and don’t have the vocabulary and maturity to express them without either crying, whining, or yelling.
Work is constant. There is always something to do, someone to pastor, a need to care for, and a fire to put out.
Marriage is hard work. With all the stresses of life and parenting, Steph and I need to work extremely hard to stay united, to communicate well, and to journey toward Jesus together. All of these things and more (and trust me there is a lot more) have made life exhausting.
I know much of what I am experiencing is a season, and temporary, a specific time in my life that is stretching and growing me. I know that if I cling to Jesus, he will be faithful, and I will be sustained. I know Jesus is enough.
But, if I’m being honest, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.
I resonate with the Psalmist when he writes, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest [Psalm 22:1-2].”
And, while I know and believe all of the theological truths about “God being near the brokenhearted [Psalm 34],” that “God will never leave you nor forsake you [Hebrews 13],” and that “Nothing can separate us from the love of God [Romans 8],” I still feel sad, alone, and exhausted.
All of my feelings well up in my soul. All of my thoughts race through my mind.
And more than ever in my life, I just want to call my dad.
“Dad, what did you do when I would whine about dumb stuff?” “Did you ever have an outburst of anger with me?” “Did you think you were a bad parent?” “How did you deal with stress?” “How did you balance work with being a dad?” “How did you and mom grow together?” “How did you pursue mom, with all of the stress of work and parenting?” “Did you ever feel God was far from you?”
I just want to talk with my dad. I want to call him and tell him how I’m struggling and hear him say, “I’ve been there, Peter.” I would love to hear him tell me a story about how I was a little monster at times, but that I was his little monster. I would love to hear him say, “I was harsh with you at times, and I have regrets.” I would love to hear him talk about his marriage with mom; the things he did well, and all the things he would change. And, I would love to hear my dad talk about Jesus. Jesus absolutely changed my dad’s life. My dad had his whole life transformed by Jesus’ love. And, I know for a fact that every time I would’ve called my dad, he would have pointed me back to Jesus. I know he would have told me about how amazing God’s love is, and how infinite his grace is.
But it’s 2023 and my dad has been dead for 25 years. I cannot call him. He cannot call me. And, so I am left to sit in sadness. I feel exhausted.
“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead. [C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed]”
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