My heart has been heavy with grief for the past couple of weeks. As a result of budget cuts in our small school district, I've been forced to grapple with the loss of the reading program I've directed for eleven years. At this point I still have a job, but what that job will be has not yet been clarified. And so, after 22 years with this school district and a professional lifetime of feeling a strong mission to help struggling readers, I find myself facing loss of professional identity.
And then blow after blow fell on my heart. New grief can cause the memory of former heart hurts to surface again, and I proceeded to behaved badly toward those closest to me as memories of ways I've been hurt in the past rushed to my conscious awareness. This closed their hearts to me and effectively robbed them of the ability to express empathy and support for me at a time when I badly needed it.
What a sad, bad time!
At 3:00 this morning I came awake and began to examine all that has happened to me at my workplace the past few weeks. After a few moments I said aloud, "STOP!" It is difficult not to rehearse what has happened in an effort to assimilate it, but that requires attempts to analyze and categorize that are likely to result in inaccurate conclusions. And so we then rehearse a version of our reality that isn't necessarily accurate, and the rehearsal itself magnifies the hurt. We want to explain how we've ended up in the situation we are in!
This morning it occurred to me that I am a child of God, and what I need to be rehearsing should be very positive. In the same way that I hope my loved ones will give me the benefit of the doubt when my behaviors seem inexplicable, I will give my Lord the same courtesy. I KNOW the Lord means me good and not harm. I will repeat to myself the same words that I remember I once said to a friend who had suffered great loss, "I don't understand why these things have happened, but I know the Lord loves you and has a plan, and I know that it is a good plan."
It seems to me that grief, large or small, can either expand our hearts or cause us to close in upon ourselves. At some point in the grief process I think we have a choice. I can choose to characterize what has happened to me from the limited base of my own understanding, conclude that I've been wronged, and rehearse that perspective until I have learned it well and can recite it by rote. The alternative is to accept that there is a gap between that I am able to comprehend and God's purposes in my life. This entails placing my trust in what I cannot see or comprehend. It is a transition that looks much easier to make in words processed on my computer screen than it feels in actual experience when my heart aches, tears flow, and grief of loss suffuses my soul.
Years ago I used colored pencils to write Psalm 119:32 on my bedroom wall. This morning, rather than rehearsing a litany of my grief, I let my eyes rest on these words and recited them aloud : I will run in the path of your commands, for you shall enlarge my heart.
Enlarge my heart, Lord. Don’t let me close in on myself. I know You mean me good and not harm. Enable me to run in the path of Your commands.