The Grief Factor

“Shit, shit. Are you kidding me? What the shit?!

When these words are combined in succession flowing frustrated and freely from my lips it means only one thing. Someone died.

. . .

Transitioning into my new life back in the place where I grew up, I thought I could do it without the overwhelming remembrance of the pain of my past. You see, when I left as a 19-year old, I had experienced an incredible amount of loss for someone my age. Many of my friends hadn’t even lost a grandparent yet, whereas I had already lost 3, as well as a parent, close friends of the family, and beloved pets. Though I still experienced loss throughout the past 10 years, it never seemed to accumulate as the mass had in my childhood.

A few moments of revelation sporadically came throughout my 10 years away. These moments consisted of me considering ways to morph the pain of my past into a ministry. Each time I considered Chaplaincy as the answer. Maybe I could take the memories of sitting in hospitals with close family members present, as we watched another grandparent whither into the abyss, and rework that into empathy for the other families experiencing this slow fade. So I prayed about it… And because of finances, these plans faded back to dust. A few years later, as I was headed into a transition, I considered it all again as I applied for Denver Seminary’s M.Div: Chaplaincy Program. Maybe I can take this desire that I’ve absorbed through countless losses to soak up the stories of everyone I’m blessed enough to meet (because I’m well aware of the possibilities of never seeing them again) as I listen to people share stories of their loved ones as they work through their own grief… Accepted into the program, I more fully considered the possibilities until the funding came up lacking, and I realized I wasn’t quite ready for 4 more years of schooling.

Then more recently, lets say a few weeks ago, to be more specific, I found myself thinking, Well surely I’ve lost this desire to be a Chaplain, because my life is no longer about loss. What exactly is my life about? Shortly thereafter I realized that those thoughts were not completely true. They were statements build around the wall that I had created, hoping somehow that this time would be different. Can we ever really escape our past? Can we ever escape who it has shaped us to be?

I came home with bold perseverance with a mild side of ignorance. High school me: GONE. The people I once lost: IN THE PAST. The shadows that used to hide me: THEY WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED. The direction life took my family: IT’S ALRIGHT. Who I am: THE AWESOME PERSON KENTUCKY CREATED ME TO BE. Though not all this is bad, it is all unavoidable, because it all made me into who I’m supposed to be. My high school awkwardness (and incredible lack of self-awareness (physically-speaking)), the shadows, the familial twists and I turns I didn’t expect (or didn’t want), and most importantly, the loss – all mushed up together – created the me who now has some sense of fashion, lives freely in the light of her own awesomeness (not the shadows of others), stands up for herself on a regular basis, and doesn’t freaking take people for granted, because dammit, life is fragile.

This passion returned during the past couple weeks as I learned of the deaths of three dear acquaintances. Each I learned of days later over social media. To each I had the same response that I always do. And through each of them, God slowly broke down my wall, reminding me that where life happens, death also happens; where love exists, loss also exists; and where He creates purpose, He will continue to chip away at it until we crack, and give into His plan.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 (ESV)

So is Chaplaincy the answer for me? Maybe. Maybe not. But what I do know is that God created me to passionately care for the people He puts in my path. I had forgotten that, while trying to create in me some essence of strength. While trying to finally “grow up” I lost one of the most beautiful parts of myself – the part that listens always, loves deeply, and loses sorrowfully. No matter how hard I try, I will never be able to erase or escape “The Grief Factor” chapter of my story. It is engrained into the core of my being, and through this perceived weakness, God will make me, and my story, strong.

What part of your story have you been building walls around?

How has God used the miseries of your past to shape His ministries for the present/future?

If you haven’t considered it before, how can you combine your wins and losses to bless others and ultimately, glorify God?

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