The last few weeks have been unlike anything we have experienced - as individuals, as local communities, and as a global collective. The magnitude of loss, upheaval, and change is something most of us have only read about in history books. And it is far from over. We have been through the denial phase, the anger, the depression. And yes, circling back to denial often, pretending it’s better this way. And, also, that it won’t be this way for long. Hoping that the tragedy of lonely deaths remains on the news, behind the same glass screens as our Netflix dramas. Hoping that somehow the economic gurus are wrong, and if we stick our heads in the sand it will all go away. And then we hear that our friend has no income, another has had to let staff go. Salary cuts are on the table. Cross a few economic friendship barriers and denial is quickly relegated to an outdated phase of this tragedy. We’re learning lockdown liturgy, but we’re living in grief cycles, too. Not all rhythm learned now will stay with us, but we have to transition through them to find our way into our new normal. Every time our president addresses the nation our hearts simultaneously fall more in love with him, while breaking a little further. He explains to us the economic rollout while a nation sits at his feet, broken hearts full of love and unity. So what now? How do we break free from the spinning wheel of grief and find our way into our new normal? First, by accepting there is one. There is a new normal. Things are not going to be the same again. We’re realising, slowly, that Thursday night is not the end.
And we learn to surrender. A few months ago, I had a voluntary day of 'self-isolation’. My husband informed me I wasn’t doing so well. (Isn’t that what partners are for?). He sent me away for 24-hours with the instructions, ‘Come back better!’ I borrowed my in-law’s empty home, and after sleeping for a few hours, met God on the couch to do business. And I sat in His presence. And I waited, saying nothing. And I gave my heart time to let unnamed emotions float slowly to the surface. Cause that’s where the grief wheel stops spinning in the mud, kicking up chaos, and starts taking traction. Surprisingly, what had been going on in my head, the things I thought God and I would need to talk about - make decisions about - were drowned out by the gently rising flood of grief. Grief over other people’s pain that I’d been counselling came pouring over the carefully constructed banks of my rational mind. I sobbed for the one’s who’d been hurt and abused. The young girls who’d been taken for a ride and the one’s who had been torn so badly they would never be the same. I sobbed and sobbed over the horror I had borne witness to, that I had no way of making go away. And as my eyes ran dry, I asked God, Now what? Where does all that pain go? I just dump it at your feet, and you have to carry it? As if you don’t have enough dealing with your own sadness over what you’ve seen. And this is the part I wanted to tell you - the surprising comment God made in response. As far as I can tell (after years of conversing fairly clearly with God), I think I heard him say, “I’m not sad.” I was confused. “Not sad? After all I’ve just told you (not that you didn’t know), but after all I’ve just brought up again? Not sad?" "No, I’m not sad. I was sad. I was devastated. Broken unto death. The events of this world that cause you fear and trauma and grief - they literally drove me to the grave… BUT THAT IS WHERE I LEFT THEM!” And I realised that as I poured out my emotions, they were not picked up by Jesus, but buried by him, needing no further ceremony. As we surrender our grief it pours out into the ground, mingling with his blood and sinking into the earth forever. Lightning charge neutralised by an endless sea of electrons - our perfectly-created, perfectly-balanced Earth. But I’m rambling. I just wanted you to know. That Jesus knows what to do with your grief and fear. That grief only starts to gain traction when we surrender. And as we surrender control, surrender to the loss, surrender to the unknown, surrender our grief and fear; as we surrender, we find our feet and can start to dream of a new normal. We surrender our financial independence, and gain community. We surrender our luxurious lifestyles, and gain solidarity with those in need. We surrender control, and gain a Saviour. We gain a hope. We gain true life. In the rush to return back to normal, we get to decide what part of normal we want to return to. In our emptiness, we get to choose what to put back into our lives.