My Journey of Grief

This month marks a year since my Dad died. I thought it might be useful to note some observations I have had about loss, grief, and recovery:

Individuality of Grief – Until you have been through the death of a parent or someone very close to you, there is no way of knowing what it is really like to go through grief. I was ignorant of grief’s twist and turns and ups and downs. I had been guilty in the past of expecting people just to snap out of it and move on. Now I know how insensitive and arrogant that mentality was. Grief is a real thing and there isn’t a clear formula for how it progresses.

Loneliness – When you lose someone so close to you it is like a part of you has been severed off, never to be replaced. I miss that part that was lost and never getting it back is a lonely feeling. There were months of just deep loneliness despite the great love and belonging I have around me.

Letchworth State Park, one of the incredible scenic locales that I have experienced over the last year. 

Counseling helps – I was blessed enough to have, on my campus, free counseling that allowed me weekly conversations about the grief process and all that was associated with my particular situation. As an introverted, contemplative thinker type, I am much more accustomed to the conversations I have with myself. Yet, here was a trained person blocking out an hour a week to listen to me and help me through my issues. At one point, my counselor asked me, what do you think has been the most beneficial part of our time together? We agreed that it wasn’t any of the activities he had me do or the strategies we worked out, it was the chance to talk about my dad, my sadness, my loneliness, and how I try to cope with these situations.

God provides – In the midst of my grief and inner turmoil, God provided the Apprentice Experience to give me resources and capacities to grow in the midst of my grief and not to be swallowed up by it. I have incredible co-workers who provided support, prayers, and practical acts of service that made me feel loved and strengthened my resiliency. I had unusual opportunities to travel, see some beautiful sights, and breath in God’s wonderful creation (see photo above.) It was life-giving and soul restoring.

The Loss of A Friend

I lost a good friend on Friday. Over the years and through many letters (yes, letters), phone calls, and a men’s retreat, he and I ministered to each other. Our friendship went way back and it has always been rich and meaningful and God was often at the center of it. Our friendship was one of the truest examples of a spiritual one that I have ever experienced. I thank him for that.

Through our friendship, both personal and spiritual,  he taught me:

  • That in order to help someone you have to not only do the nice thing but also try to do the best thing for that person
  • That service to others means being creative and letting God guide you
  • That to help someone, it may take risks. But those risks are worth it
  • That life’s struggles aren’t superficial. They may require sacrifice beyond measure
  • That true friendship doesn’t have to have an agenda
  • That being a brother in Christ means more than being a friend
  • That overwhelming obstacles can be overcome
  • That you can always do more
  • That I am powerless over so much
  • That my prayers can be ridiculously selfish
  • That there may be more questions than answers
  • That genuine bonds can spread over decades
  • That hurt may be present but love shines brighter

One of the last things he wrote to me was, “You’ve been there.”And then he signed off with, “Thank you my Brother.”

No, thank you my Brother and friend. What you taught me I will carry to help others and our legacy of friendship will be a testimony to God’s great work in our lives.

Spiritual Mentors: Michael Roe

This week, I am profiling people who have had the most influence on my Christian spiritual life. Today’s profile is of a musical artist that most people have never heard of.

Mike Roe

His Influence: The first song that I ever heard from the 77s, the band that Mike Roe founded in the late 70s, had a line that goes, “You spit out Manna, God sends quails.” I snapped to attention. I had been exposed to Contemporary Christian Music, and all of its superficial fluff and lame melodies, for so long that I hadn’t realized that an honest lyric and edgy rock music was even possible from a group of Christians. I picked up the album(actually a tape) and probably played it non-stop for a year. The album had it all –  longing, celebration, teenage angst, blues, beauty, and a voice that was both haunting and uplifting.

Who was this guy? All I had was a band photo and a name in the liner notes. How did he mix longing, doubt, and disappointment with hope and faith? I was a confused teenager who didn’t think anyone could identify with me, who had very rarely had any kind of message reach into my soul and touch it with such poignancy as Roe’s songs did. I began to frantically search for older albums by the band. Every find was like another “letter from home”. It seemed like every song he wrote was one that related to me. He wrote about teenage lust, about the difficulty in forgiving others, and the superficiality of personal accolades. And Roe and the band encapsulated these subjects in pop songs that jangled and dripped with hooks or in rock songs that were so refreshingly bare for that overbloated musical time period.

The one song that meant the most to me and seemed to sum up my life during my high school and college years was a song entitled, “Come and Gone”:

The wrong places at all the wrong times
Too far ahead, too many years behind
Make-up my face to hide another line
But it’s a waste when all your precious prime’s

Come and gone
Come and gone
Baby, come on

And now you’re coming to me every day
You’re telling me it’s gonna be O.K.
And though my story isn’t much to read
If I’ve got you, the rest is history

Life is tough, our lives are broken but in Jesus we have a story to be grafted in to. A story with a glorious ending that can, even in the darkest times, be experienced right now and right here. Roe discussed his faith at a bare bones level that I needed as I muddled through my teenage years. In Roe’s music, I found comfort, hope, and an identity that was real and authentic and without fluff and church- speak. He has the most glorious ability to sweep you away through music and then knock you over the head with a lyric, or maybe it is the other way around. No matter, it is utter genius and something that I praise God for every time I listen.

What Mike Roe can teach you: “In this world you will have trouble. (Some of it self imposed) But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Mike Roe recommendations: If you want to experience Mike Roe and the 77s for yourself, check out these recommendations.

77s – Sticks and Stones – my first 77s album and the perfect choice for new listeners.

77s – 88 – The greatest live album of all time.

Michael Roe – Say Your Prayers – this should be the Christian Life Hacker soundtrack.