It happened and it was good
Since 2020, grief, a word I rarely used in my first 45 years, became the biggest word in the “word cloud” of my life.
I grieved the loss of “normal” when the pandemic hit. I grieved losing the illusion that “normal” is not so fragile that a breath can blow it away.
Cancer killed my dad in 2022. I had a bedside seat to his suffering. I heard and saw him struggle to take his last breaths. Dad’s death blew a hole in my world. The way he died traumatized me.
Earlier this year, a brother in Christ who I also thought to be a friend, fired me from my job for no real reason and with no warning. For 29 years, I gave my best as a donor, employee, student, and volunteer at the Christian institution where I hoped and planned to minister for the rest of my career. It took less than five minutes for that institution to let me go. And not just let me go, but in a way that it would jettison bad employees. The ones that fail to perform, get caught in unethical behavior, or violate institutional policy. I grieve not only the loss of a job, but the loss of that 29-year relationship (and all that I hoped was yet to come). I grieve the blow I took to my dignity and self-confidence.
My age amplifies that grief. I’m in midlife, entering the back half of my career. I grieve that failures and setbacks like a job loss cost me far more now than they did when I was young. I don’t have as much time left to try to get my career back on track. I grieve how the future gets less sure and more short.
I grieve that my son is growing up so fast. This fall, he started his last year of elementary school. Where did the time go? He’s our only one, which stirs up my grief over the one we lost to a miscarriage. I grieve that I will never get to be a daddy to a daughter or two and more sons. I grieve for my son’s grief at not having siblings.
I grieve my church. It’s not what it used to be.
I grieve my country. It’s not what it used to be either.
I grieve how my best and oldest friendships faded so much over the last few years. Space and time separated us so that most of what we share in common is almost all in the past now.
The week that I write this, I grieve my Grandmama. She died at age 95. To tell the truth, her death was somewhat of a relief. The last few years, I grieved–in slow motion–her despair, isolation, and sadness as age and disability shrunk her world to one chair in one room.
I grieve all of this. I grieve it so hard.
The Christian tradition in which I grew up doesn’t have a lot of room for grief. We’re the kind of people who, depending on the generation, are either stoic or saccharine about it.
But these days, I don’t feel like acting like my grief doesn’t matter or explaining it away with platitudes like “God has a plan.” The way I see it, grief is as true as a river that breaks through its dam and returns to its natural course. Grief must be of God for, if we are made in the image of God, then surely we are made to feel what God feels.
So if I grieve, then God must at least be capable of grief, too.
I can trust a God like that. I may not be able to explain anything that happened over the last few years. I may not be able to “make it all better.”
But if I know that God grieves, that is enough for me to have faith and hope.
I think that God has given me a little prayer for my grief. I say it under my breath as often as grief overcomes me. It goes like this: “It happened and it was good.”
“Normal” life before 2016 and 2020 happened and it was good.
My dad’s life happened and it was good.
My son’s childhood happened and it was good.
My 29 years at that Christian institution happened and they were good.
I grew up in my church and my country and it was good.
My grandmother’s life happened (for 95 years!) and it was good.
My own life happened up to this point and it was good.
No loss can take away that all of this happened and all of it was good.
“It happened and it was good” reveals that my grief is actually gratitude.
Gratitude to a God who grieves with me.
I can trust a God like that.