“He means to make his subjects merciful and wise; sorrow and struggle bringeth both. We will, he tells me, grow by grieving, live by dying, love by losing. The heart itself is the field of battle and the garden green.”
― Andrew Peterson, The Monster in the Hollows
Our family loves the Wingfeather Saga books by Andrew Peterson. They follow Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli as they grow from innocent little children into young people who are refined and shaped by much tragedy in their lives but just as much love. We have read them together out loud several times, and recently the kids have enjoyed hearing the author himself read them over FB during Covid.
Though the story is fiction and filled with imaginative and colorful characters and scenery, the truth of these words is very real. I’ve been reading a book by Esther Fleece called “No More Faking Fine.” (I don’t love the name, but I am no good at titles either!) It is a book that centers around the idea that to have true joy and become real worshippers and who we were meant to be, we must first learn to become fluent in the prayers of lament. God is not one who offers us the easy fix. Death to self is painful. Sanctification can be hard spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Remember – it is not our work, but us surrendering to him and allowing him to work in us. We often choose to go the other route – we short cut through the hard stuff as fast as possible and bypass any uncomfortable grieving time or unanswerable questions. We do whatever we can do on our own to “fix it.” I am definitely guilty of this. But I am starting to learn that if I want to truly heal, truly grow as a person, then I need to take time to put words to my own grief and wounds and then offer them up to him to redeem no matter how painful that process is. Not just the ones in the past that I prefer to forget, but the ones that come up daily. I’ve found they usually hinge on one another – past wounds continue to fester until true lament happens.
As I do this, it becomes good for everyone I do life with. Eugene Peterson says in his book, “The Contemplative Pastor,” that God’s plans and purposes are not about ourselves only. What is truly best for us will always be best for the people around us. If we suffer, this can help us grow into people of compassion who can empathize well. Our experiences, when properly healed, can make us living examples of God to the world around us. But if we ignore the wounds and don’t take the time to grieve them, then we become self-focused, unable to love well, and wounded. When we don’t practice self-care, we cannot care for others. Taking time to heal is not being self-absorbed, it is being a person who becomes vulnerable in our weakest state so that we can be strong and whole through his Spirit.
As we have walked through this crazy year, we have all had things to grieve. Maybe things in our past have caught up with us as we have had to change some of the activities that may have distracted us before. Hear me – I am not talking about staying in the lament. No, just the opposite – we don’t wallow. We do sit, wait, listen. We don’t rush. But when we have actively and intentionally walked through the grief we come to the other side of it ready to trade in that sorrow for a real hope, joy, and peace that comes from believing in the one true God who keeps his promises. What a good thing to remember in this season of Advent.