How do we deal with grief? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
9/11 has come upon us again. It’s hard to realize that next year it will be twenty years since that day. We need to ask why is it that that day surprised us so much?
We remember Pearl Harbor, but not the same way. Perhaps because that was an attack on a military area. That was thoroughly understandable. It also happened in a time when a lot of the world was at war. It makes sense that when war is going on, nations will be attacked.
9/11 was different. There wasn’t a major war going on. These weren’t military targets either. These were ordinary civilians living their lives everyday and this was a prominent attack on a major landmark in our country. The second Spider-Man movie was even going to show a scene with a giant spider web between the World Trade Center towers capturing the bad guys. That had to be scrapped.
Yet as I thought about it, there can be a danger here. We should acknowledge what happened every year on the anniversary, but we need to remember that we do not stay there. Israel was to commemorate the Passover every year and their escape from slavery, but they didn’t do it every day. They were to remember and live like they were a free people.
There is an interesting story in Lewis’s The Great Divorce about a grieving mother who longs to see her boy again on the other side. The one she talks to says she can see him when she is ready. She is willing to do anything, but that is the problem precisely. She has become so laser-focused on her son, Michael, that she is forgetting everyone else. Her husband and her daughter were both forgotten.
The one the mother, Pam, talks to tells her that she needs to show love of God first, but Pam is starting for the wrong reason. She is loving God as a means to get to Michael. If you love someone as a means for another reason, you do not really love that person. It doesn’t matter if it’s a relative, a spouse, a friend, or God. Love for the other is an end in itself.
That includes if you love that person as a means just for your own fulfillment and not theirs. If a husband loves his wife and does it solely for the purpose of getting sex, he doesn’t really love her. He loves what she does for him. If a parent loves their child so their child can succeed and the parent can live vicariously through them, they don’t really love the child. They love what the child does for them.
Pam is told that her husband and daughter loved and grieved the death of Michael, but she had held them hostage by refusing to ever move or by refusing to change his room at all. They were all continuous victims of Pam’s grief. They were neglected while Pam focused all her attention on Michael, the dead one, instead of celebrating the living ones she had there with her.
In the end, she screams to the messenger speaking to her that Michael is hers and not even God will keep him from her and to tell that to his face. In her own words,
“…Give me my boy. Do you hear? I don’t care about all your rules and regulations. I don’t believe in a God who keeps mother and son apart. I believe in a God of Love. No one has a right to come between me and my son. Not even God. Tell Him that to His face. I want my boy, and I mean to have him. He is mine, do you understand? Mine, mine, mine, for ever and ever.”
As can be seen, Pam’s focus is on herself. She’s not even thinking about the welfare of Michael. If she loved Michael, she would be asking about his happiness and well-being, but she is not. She is self-focused entirely.
This is not to say that families should not grieve loved ones today. They should. There is a proper grief though and we do not want to be held hostage by our grief. This is especially so if we are Christians. We mourn, but not like those who have no hope. We remember the promise of resurrection. We remember that we will see them, that specific person, again, provided we are all Christians.
And if that person is not a Christian and we thus do not know how God will judge them, we remember we have God. What does it say of us if we think we will be in the presence of God in Heaven and yet think we will mourn because one person is not there. Is the presence of God lesser than the presence of any other person?
Today, let us remember those we have lost, but let us not stay there in the past. Just as Israel had their Passover, so have we. We have resurrection to look forward to. We have the promise of God. Breaking free from foreign chains is a great accomplishment. Breaking free from the chains of sin and death is greater still.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)