Monday, December 19, 2011

Entertaining Grief

I’ve been entertaining grief… Which explains why I didn’t write last week.

Last week, sitting at the table with my uninvited guest meant having a hard time finding words.  It meant more silence than usual… more long pauses… less enthusiasm for ordinary communication (although blogging hardly feels ordinary to me yet).

In one of the long pauses last week, I was reading a little book about thriving.  In it, I learned more about joy and connectedness and the brain’s elasticity and potential for healing. There is a part of the brain, a ‘joy center’ that grows in response to joy-filled relationships – the kind where people are delighted to be with each other… the kind where you feel energized and more alive.  Most of the brain stops growing (or at least dramatically slows) at different stages of development… but the right orbital prefrontal cortex, the ‘joy center’, never loses its capacity to grow.  In this part of the brain, broken records are re-recorded… old dogs learn new tricks… and hopelessness is pregnant with expectation.  We can truly be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2).

But instead of joy as our center, many of us live with fear at our core.  Rather than being drawn by the delight we experience in the presence of others, we are driven by the threat of all that could go wrong.  Rather than faithfully pursuing the good, we haphazardly run from impending disaster.  Our fundamental attitude toward living is one of defense and protection…

This was my posture through most of my childhood.  This was the way I limped through the first two years of grief after losing Mom.  I never wanted to feel this awful again… this was to be avoided at all costs.  But in the midst of the misery, Immanuel found me… and sat with me in the deep dark pit… no explanation was given… only presence.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me… He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because He delighted in me.”  And that delight sparked the renewing of my mind… began physically shifting my ‘center’ away from fear and into joy.  “People underestimate how good it is to live with joy in charge instead of fear.” 

And it was grief that began the shift… it was in entertaining the uninvited guest that the far off Yahweh began to become Immanuel.

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