In the last post, I discussed a few items that have helped me as I work through my grief in the loss of my father. Today, I mention three more that have been instrumental in restoring some sense of balance and stability in a challenging time.
Scot McKnight, in his excellent book on Fasting, makes the case that the Biblical point of fasting is to have an intentional spiritual response to a sacred moment. I thought of this as I was trying to think of ways to work through my grief.
The death of my father was a sad sacred moment that I needed to fully acknowledge and commemorate through my actions. So, I marked out a couple of days on my calendar, told my wife what I was doing, and went for it. It was kind of a forced way of remembering my dad.
So many times we choose to try to forget or even hope that we wouldn’t think about our loved one so much. I chose to make every hunger craving or pain an invitation to think about my Dad, his life, his legacy, and our times together. To thank God for him and to seek out God’s comfort in my sad reality.
There are many things I could say about these two days but they are hard to express. The main result was a balancing of my physical, spiritual, and emotional states. My physical side needed to be more tied to my spiritual rather than my emotional side – more faith and less bitterness, more trust and less anger, and more outward focus and less self focus. My spiritual side needed to go deeper and further rather than staying on the surface where my emotional side could take over. And my emotional side needed to find the healthy emotions such as love, hope, peace, and joy and not dwell on anger, bitterness, and envy. My time of fasting helped bring more balance to these states.
There are some people who will tell you everything they possibly can about a situation they find themselves in, whether you asked them about it or not. I am not one of those people. I assume most people don’t want to hear it so I don’t bother; they would rather talk about themselves than listen to me. But, in the face of life and death, I couldn’t play my usual, “I’m okay,” game. It would have been an obvious lie.
So when people ask me how I am doing regarding my Dad’s death, I try to express more of what is truly going on. I will speak about how difficult it has been, the things I have learned, the challenges of the particular moment, and what has been hard moving forward. A few friends from work have asked me for lunch and I have taken the opportunity to elaborate on the challenges of the summer and how I am trying to move forward. Though I do not like talking about myself for long stretches, it has been rewarding to be open and honest about what I am going through and sense the legitimate concern and kind words of a friend.
In the last post, I mentioned how the Psalms have been helpful to me in dealing with my grief. Psalm 30 includes a line that reads, “You turned my wailing into dancing.” I don’t know what kind of dancing the Psalmist was thinking of when he wrote that but my kind of dancing included Kool and the Gang.
I had bought a CD of Kool and the Gang’s Greatest Hits for one of our daughters who enjoys a little funk in her music selection. One day as I was returning from work, a little beat down from the day and my circumstances, I hear that my daughter is playing the CD in the living room. Instead of dragging all of my stuff to my room and trying to decompress on my own, something moved me to dance to the music. It was spontaneous, fun, goofy, and a great relief. It was also a sign that I don’t have to be ensnared by sadness forever, that God is providing moments of joy and fun and that it is okay to let loose every now and then.