loss.

 

every time there are losses there are choices to make. you choose to live your losses as passages to anger, blame, hatred, depression, and resentment, or you choose to let these losses be passages to something new, something wider, something deeper…”

 henri nouwen

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i came across this nouwen passage this past week & it touched my heart in a good and deep way, and i thought in light of the last 3 church refugee videos that i would focus just a little on this issue of loss and change. one of the things that is hard about blogging (or 10 minute video conversations) is that you can never fully flesh out each and every one of these ideas.  it also sort of bugs me that in many christian circles there is a weird expectation that in every sentence, every paragraph, every “moment” there are certain words expressed that somehow tie it up and make it cleaner, easier.  i wrote about this a long time ago in the first year of the refuge in a post called get over it.” some of the ideas i shared way back then came back to me this week–how certain words, hopefulness, or a good-and-clear-happy-ending makes us feel so much better.  an example of this is when i say “i am angry about this injustice” it’s hard for some people to hear.  but if i say “i used to be really angry but God did a work in me and now i have so much peace” then we smile and nod and feel so much better.  i think it’s because many of us, on the whole, have a hard time with raw emotion and honesty.  and we also have a hard time with loss and grief.  i don’t think that struggle is exclusive those who are or have been part of “the church” but i do think for those engrained with churchianity it is sometimes harder because so little has been taught about what it means to live really authentically, be strongly connected & able to express what’s going on inside of us, and the art of lament and waiting.

one of the things i love most about the psalms is that so many are cries of the heart about loss, change, fear, and anger.  but over and over the psalmists draw back on the peace and hope of God in the midst.  and as we all know, some of them are more hopeful than others.

most all the people i know have experienced deep loss at this stage of their lives–loss of relationships, dreams, innocence, marriages, ministries, churches, health, jobs, people, and just about everything in between.  the healthiest ones i know are those who are able to be honest about their loss and let their losses lead them to new places in their journey with God, others, and themselves. but at the same time, most all of us who have lost much will express that there were funky waves and seasons where anger, despair, confusion, and depression somehow set in along the way.  it wasn’t all roses and sunshine, that’s for sure.  it is a process, and like most emotion-human-real-stuff-of-people’s-lives, the journey is not linear.  there are ups and downs and all arounds along the way.  but, if we hang on, strap in, have safe places to share and good-fellow-sojourners-to-carry-some-of-our-load-here-and-there-while-we-are-crying-out-to-God-and-others-sometimes-without-words we can find a new place to live. the scars still remain.  we all have our war wounds.  but our losses can lead us to new places, as nouwen says, places that are wider and deeper.

today i find myself really sad about all that i’ve lost when it comes to the-church-system-i-originally-came-from.  oh, how some days i wish i could just play the game and go with the flow.  $!*!&^$^!(,  it would be easier in so many ways.  but i know that this nutty, scary path that God has me on is the one that i must continue to follow.  some criticize that orthopraxy without orthodoxy is not right, and that somehow being clear about “belief” is always necessary.  i really resonate with what brennan manning says somewhere in one of his books–“if you want to know what a person believes, watch what they do.”

i may have many “i don’t knows” in my faith, but i am more clear on Jesus than i ever have been when it comes to what he calls his followers to do (i’m not saying i always do it or have any of this stuff nailed down, but i am personally more and more convicted about what that really looks like, and yes, it’s uncomfortable, hard, and oh-so-counter-to-the-world-and-most-systems-and-not-only-the-religious-ones).   i am also acutely aware that the Holy Spirit is alive and well, moving, changing, stirring, leading, shifting, calling people to hard and beautiful things in the midst of all kinds of crazy losses.

i do not want to be a person who lets the losses i have experienced–and am experiencing–keep me stuck in anger, depression, blame and resentment, but it’s okay to say “this is is how i am feeling, this is where i am at, this is what i’m wrestling with.”  it does not make us bad, unfaithful, or losers.  but at the same time, i want to be a person who allows the losses in my life to be glorious, unfamiliar, wild, and beautiful passages to new, wider, and deeper places.

and i hope the same for each of you. i am thankful for your voice here, that you take time to read, that you are trying to live despite all the weird unexpected twists and turns your life may have taken, that you care deeply about people, that you are seeking God, that your heart is stirred to live out the gospels in all kinds of wild and amazing ways, that you are willing to be honest about your losses and be open to hope & wider, deeper places.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

4 Comments

  • I would think there are a gazllion people who could relate to this, most of us are too scared to accept the truth of it though.
    Shortly after we got married myself and my wife got super real with each other as we wanted to start off as we mean to go on, by being honest and open. It was so freeing except in the midst of it we realised we couldn’t fake it any more at church, we had to be real. Short story, we left.
    It has been the loneliest season of our lives yet in some strange only God could do it like this kind of way we’ve never felt more content or had such acceleration in our personal walks with Jesus.
    We value true relationship which has lost us most of our friends but deepened to a whole new level two friendships that are the bones of our community. And in the midst of it we have all these new younger people coming to us out of the woodwork for prayer, encouragement and to just hang out.
    It’s been an amazing journey. I still shed many a tear for the reality of friends I thought were friends now not engaging with us yet I wouldn’t swop my new found freedom in Christ warts and all for the world. And God couldn’t have partnered me with a more incredible best friend / wife to do it with. She’s astounding.
    All that to say, thank you for your blog I’m a long time lurker and I really appreciate all you guys do. You give people to be real and expose the true them which is what the Father is yearning for in all of us.

    Reply
  • Kathy –
    yes! when we pack up our wounds, as if they *are* healed, or our questions, as if we do not have to or cannot live with theological tension and contradiction, we bypass *life*: we bypass many things that would otherwise lead us to Jesus.

    (i was told that the reason that i was not chosen to lead a small group Bible study, but could pick the ciriculum, was that i ask questions more than give answers.) maybe this is a western mindset. it’s a faulty, spiritually stifling style.

    “the psalmists draw back on the peace and hope of God in the midst. ” how else do we meet God and “find a new place to live.”?

    unsure if you’re referring to my note on your last blog re: orthopraxy and orthodoxy. does it seem that many wonderful people who do not believe in Jesus at all, or not as He says he is, have great practice: a life of love and sacrifice? and so i’m guessing we agree that what beliefs matter. interested in your thoughts. 🙂

    Reply
  • oooh, such an important topic. Thanks, Kath, for writing so openly about something that doesn’t get a ton of air time. Especially in “churchianity”, it is soooo common to sure, mention pain briefly, but not without a verse or scripture too far behind. While of course those things are intended to provide comfort, there are times that it can shut people up too soon, or even stop the needed grieving process to play its course.

    I think that in the world of loss, one of the best things we can do is *validate* the actual experience. It may not get wrapped up with a shiny bow, or look exactly the way we or others think it should look. One of my very faaaavorite quotes of all time about grief and loss is by Hope Edelman, and I sometimes re-visit the pages in her book as a reminder.

    “Here’s what I learned about grief. It is not linear. It’s not predictable. It’s anything but smooth and self-contained. Someone did us a grave injustice by implying that mourning has a distinct beginning, middle, and end. That is the stuff of short fiction. It’s not real life.”

    I also want to want to “be a person who allows the losses in my life to be glorious, unfamiliar, wild, and beautiful passages to new, wider, and deeper places” Even to Colorado. 😉 xoxo

    Reply
  • ferg – thank you for taking time to share, it is always great to hear real stories like that of what some of this looks like up close and personal. it is so beautiful.

    leeann – oh, i have heard that one before. when in the world did we get the idea that part of “bible study” was “bible-telling-people-exactly-what-it-means.” anyway, i wrote that not just in response to your note but also to other overarching thoughts about the need for everyone to be crystal clear on their beliefs in order to live out the gospel. i just don’t see it that way. some of the most amazing christ-followers could never past a bible-doctrine-test. and yes, i do know so amazing folks who serve, give, love, sacrifice in ways that are unbelievable and wouldn’t call themselves “christians” in terms of dogma. and because humans are humans, i also know a lot of self-centered, self-absorbed people on both sides of the fence, too, ha ha. i do think that actions & beliefs are all intertwined together, but the part i always respond to is that without right orthodoxy you can’t have right orthopraxy. thanks for reading, responding, and for living out your faith in such a bold and beautiful way.

    stacy – oh you are the quote master. that is a great one! so good..

    Reply

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