What a great gift this life is and what a strange surprise it is for me to type those words. These are newer and fresher feelings for me, but I am believing more and more in the rewards of gratitude and contentment that can only be found on the far side of the long journey of grief.
My friend Ashley was asking us the other day – what does it mean to flourish? What would it look like to thrive? She said – in her wise wisdom – I think it is something that is only possible for those who grieve. And I felt the truth of that – not in my mind, although it is there too, wrapped in words like suffering produces endurance produces character produces a hope that does not disappoint. It is there in my intellect, with the awareness of how the brain needs the psychobiological process we call ‘grieving’ to integrate losses in a way that leads to an adaptive life.
I feel the truth of it, though, in my heart and in my hands as they move through the air – treasuring each thing they touch more deeply than before, even as I am more aware that these things are so temporal. How counter intuitive: that learning what you treasure most through the terrible work of exploring and experiencing your sorrow would teach you not to flee, but to embrace; not to grip, but to receive with gratitude and humility.
I think today about this precious Gospel and how strange it is that we are told that the angels long to look at it, in a way that suggests that they almost envy us. Which makes sense to me – to envy that as humans we get to experience parts of God that they can only observe. And what a difference that is: to experience and not just observe. I think of Heaven, long for Heaven, and yet, I know that this life is a gift. For there is coming a day when certain attributes of the character of God we will no longer experience, once sin and pain evaporate.
Things like patience, that won’t be needed where we’re going. And what a small word patience sounds like, what an overlooked necessity and a dismissed glorious reality. But oh – how miraculous it is. How it steadies when the soul feels panicked, behind, faltering. How He climbs inside all of our ‘not enough’ moments and grips are hand while we try to walk again. How sweet that part of Him tastes, that I will no longer grip to help me stand again when stumbling is no longer a part of my walk.
Things like forgiveness. And maybe you have never fallen so far that you know what it is to feel that rope tighten around your waist and truly experience it as the only hope of ever climbing out, maybe you have never felt how desperately you need that rope, even if you trust it is there, maybe it is assumed, maybe it can be forgotten for you. But – for some of us – we know what it is to experience the kind of forgiveness that is your only hope of bridging gaps and can indeed make sad things come untrue. Some of us tasted it, and taste it every time we draw breath.
When there is no more sin and failure, my faith will be sight and what a glorious thing that will be. And still, what a glorious thing it is now, to experience the parts of you that I may have only heard about if apples in Eden hadn’t appeared so irresistible.
Maybe this is all making sense of the strange ideas that to live is Christ and to die is gain. For surely – I will one day touch you my dear and never-failling friend and this long wait will be over. But I am indeed, hard pressed between the two today – because there is a a part of you I am learning that will make that touching so much more treasured.