Lessons From Grief: “New Normal”

Grief sucks, plain and simple. It’s teaches us quite a few lessons so we can help those who are currently struggling through it. You learn some surprising insights from it, one being that you gain a new identity.

Have you lost someone and found that nothing feels the same? A new normal has to arise, with a new identity of sorts. I’ll let C.S Lewis explain:

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets… Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend.”

C.S Lewis The Four Loves

When you lose someone close, they’re a friend whether they are related or not. That part of you that they could get you to reveal is hidden again. How we act around one friend is different than with another. My wife sees both the extremely goofy and analytical sides of me. My best friend enjoys engaging the part of me that goes deep into obscure topics that would bore my wife to tears.

The part someone brings out is gone when we lose them. It’s hidden away, just a memory. A hole is formed and it has to be filled the best way possible. That involves a change, a new normal–not moving on, but forward.

Some of the changes I went through is I began to legitimately care about people. Before, it was all about me. I opened up, appreciated life, and realized that a lot of life’s squabbles are petty and stupid in the end. It leads to regret when one of you dies.

As we grieve, we’ll adapt, becoming someone a little different. It’ll hurt still, and don’t worry, you won’t forget about them. As time goes on, other parts of your personality and life experiences will be drawn out. Like a music talent that was dormant or neglected will return. We grieve, but we also grow.

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Renovating

With the move, settling in, and in the middle of it all, a birthday/memorial, a few things were put on hold. A little physical atrophy from not training, though moving is a workout in itself, along with a bit more spiritual atrophy than I would’ve liked. I had not done any of my in-depth study in Luke; my quiet time was just casual reading in a Bible app’s reading plans.

The stress was getting to me surprisingly; it went smoother than many things before. Cracks began to appear in my day-to-day activities; I was getting snappy and mean. Fortunately, it stayed in my head…usually, though, body language does not lie very well. It really became evident one day when I had a scenario run by me while waiting to checkout at the grocery store. I snapped my answer to it in annoyance at a slight that had not even happened. That is when it sank in how important my quiet time in the Bible was. One of my many character flaws is my anger issues and they returned.

The thing with people like me who have many issues, the conversion or sanctification process of the Holy Spirit is evident. It is like a major attitude adjustment. I had been wondering why I was not seeing the major changes in my wife. Then I remembered an analogy by C.S Lewis about a widget factory under new management. I could not verify it, though; however, I found this one…

 “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Casey on her worst day is me on my best day; she is probably getting little renovations where I am getting walls torn down and junk tossed out of the window. I guess you could consider quiet time as the time you are consulting the blueprints for the palace. If you don’t you might wire it wrong, at least I have a trustworthy architect.

Love In Action

In the Ragamuffin Gospel, I was hung up on how God could pursue us individually. Then I read an analogy that C.S. Lewis used that helped it fall into place-a book’s characters, and its author. The book(creation) is in its own timeline while the author(God) is outside of it, personally giving their attention to every part of it. A simple task for a creator who is outside of time itself.

He is involved in other ways as well. In my daily reading during the Immediate Obedience challenge, I read a verse in Romans that called for the saved to make themselves a living sacrifice.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12: 1 NIV

The chapter goes on about putting others first and serving others. It sounds weak, doesn’t it? Then I thought about what firefighters, EMTs, soldiers, and cops do every day. Weak was not the right word to use. It can go from dying for another to something as simple as just caring about another person’s day.

I remember a woman with a Mohawk who recently came to church and sat with the Latinos; it was the first time I ever saw her and she looked really stressed and angry. During the altar call, she sobbed with a prayer pastor for close to ten minutes. Another girl that had her own need came up and loved on her, hugged her, and prayed with her off to the side. Then she went to the prayer pastor herself when they were done. She came back that night, Mohawk up, with a lighter step and was talking to everyone. During the worship part of the service, she was the first one to stand up, followed by a recovering alcoholic, both with their arms raised. I looked at them with a quiet smile thinking that ragamuffins do not take God’s second and third chances lightly. I don’t, and in that moment, I understood His love a little more. (Update: Her name is Carrie and she was baptized 1-25-15)

While in Oklahoma, we stopped at a store and, as usual, that store chain’s card reader hated our debit card. While I was waiting in the car, my wife text me to come in; I got out just as she walked out with her bags and a story. She told me about a guy and his wife who just bought her stuff for her when the reader did not take the card. We told her grandma, who called her friend who works there. She heard the man tell his wife of his intent to pay. No one knows who they were, and it is a small town. It was grace in action; the divine gift-love I wrote about last week.

I am reminded to be ‘a light’ like the above, though it is hard at times, especially when cranky and tired. Offer a helping hand, show interest in others letting them know they matter, or just banter with people. Life is serious enough on its own without adding to it. Even calling someone by their name, taking the time to learn or at least read the nametag could be the highlight of their day.

Loving Others?

What is love? It is defined in many ways. I have trouble understanding and at times expressing it. I am not a huggy; tell everyone ‘I love you’ type of person. I will accept hugs, just do not give them. The only love I do not have an issue expressing is to my wife, or did I?

I bought The Four Loves by C.S Lewis, devouring it in three days. He starts by taking love and dividing it into need-love and gift-love. Then he breaks it down into four flavors, affection, friendship, companionship, and romantic. The book ends with the pure gift-love called charity, where the other four are a combination of need/gift. Charity, he wrote, comes as natural and divine loves. The natural charity loves what someone finds lovable and divine charity does love what someone does not find lovable.

This was important to me because we are to ‘love our neighbor as we love ourselves’ and I didn’t understand what that meant exactly. I did not think I was doing a good job of it at all. I understood loving God with all that I had, it was easy when I considered how His divine charity (gift-love) loved unlovable me. My gratitude is shown by making Him first in my life. I get His love in blessings, my wife gives me all the loves, and my loneliness is a lacking in real friends I can see here in the state. I have many companions in Arkansas, no real friends that I see outside of my wife.

So, I was having a hard time with how to love others? As companions. Friends? Surely not in a romantic sense? I even prayed that I could love people like Jesus did. It was part of the reason I read the Gospel of Mark to see how He interacted with people. My prayer was answered and I did not realize it.

Selflessly or self-sacrificially loving the “unlovable” or people I did not even know in the form of divine gift-love was loving like Jesus. All the other loves grow from that. Example after example of ‘loving God’ and ‘loving my neighbor as myself’ happened without me realizing it until I wrote this.

After church, we sometimes eat with the deaf church, so I try to give my time in conversations, something I am not strong at in my shyness and introversion. It is a gift showing someone that they matter, something that a lonely or insecure person will treasure, at least I do. Another example was the Angel Tree kid we adopted. When we were kids my sister and I were ‘adopted’ at least once off it, and we show that same gift-love to another. The day I dropped off the toddler’s toys I stopped at the processor to pick up the deer I shot. I took the backstraps and twelve pounds of deer burger home, donating eighteen pounds to Hunters Feeding the Hungry. Divine charitable love, I do not know whom that feeds but care enough to give. I gave four pounds of what I took home to friends at work, natural gift-love in action.

Then there is the serving in church, showing the love for God as well as others. Even in loving others, we end up loving God according to Matthew 25: 35-40. In a three-day span it came up in different books, I was going through, kind of as if God was affirming it. I do not tell you these examples to make me look good, before I came back to Christ I was stingy with what I had, self-centered and it had to benefit me somehow. I would help someone once, and keep record of the debt. The level of generosity and altruism is God working on and through me now. My old nature would not allow it, but when I was saved, I became a new creature.

Loving others does not have to come with a fuzzy feeling as I thought. It is in something as simple as welcoming someone, companionship in the moment, or comforting them. It can be through meeting a need or simple generosity. In Mere Christianity, another of C.S Lewis’s books, he wrote that it is an act of will. Not a passive feeling but an active one that is kind to others in any degree. I understand that now. It is something that went from a burden to live up to for me to having a peace knowing I am doing it right through Christ who strengthens me.