It Is Okay

During my personal and professional life, I have experienced a fair amount of loss. Most individuals can make the same statement. There has been the death of family and friends. Loss of relationships have occurred. The death of cherished pets has happened. Changes in employment and locations where I have lived are parts of my life. Age and the process of growing older has brought about loss of abilities (and hair). Professionally I have had the honor of walking alongside others as they have experienced these types of loss and ones which are not mentioned. In each of these situations, one aspect has been similar and yet so different, grief has been present.

Grief is a part of life which is an unwieldy beast. The challenge in our experience with grief is that it is never the same in each situation and refuses to abide by a predictable time frame or predictable expressions. Grief is something which denies us the ability to be in control. However, well-meaning individuals and professionals have attempted to control grief and our responses to grief. The attempts are weak and often futile.

Since grief is an emotion, it is triggered by a variety of life encounters and situations. At times, we can experience grief but not even be consciously aware of what we are experiencing. This emotion manifests itself in so many ways, including physically and psychologically. Grief is also personal in nature like other emotions. At times, we may be able to see similarities in the manner in which we experience grief just as do others. Other times, our grief may be beyond comparison. In some situations, grief may become noticeable to us in small starts and stops. Or grief may come in waves with varied duration of time both in how long we sense it and how long there are breaks between waves.

In my experiences of grief in my life, as well as walking along with others during their times of grief, I have these observations:

  • There is no right way or wrong way to grieve. Do not allow someone to tell you what you should be doing with your grief or judge how you live through grief.
  • Grief is not limited to times of death. Any time we have loss of any type in our lives, grief can be present.
  • Each person and each instance is different.
  • While there may appear to be various stages, these do not always exist in a neat order or repeat themselves. What does exist is the manner in which people deal with grief may have some similarities but also can be extremely different.
  • Do NOT put a time frame on your grief nor let anyone else attempt to do so.
  • There are no magic words or actions which can remove grief from your life or the life of anyone else. Grief is an emotion which takes its own course.
  • It is okay to grieve. It is okay to respond to grief as you feel is best for you. Every person and every situation is different. Grief operates outside of rules so do not put rules on how you respond to it.
  • Having a trusted friend or professional who you are able to honestly share your grief experience with helps but it does not magically remove the grief. Instead, it allows someone to walk alongside you through your grief and to remind you that whatever you are experiencing is okay.

I want to leave you with this one thought whether you are currently experiencing grief in your life or you can hopefully remember when you do experience grief — However you respond to grief and however grief enters your life, IT IS OKAY

Christian Robots

My mother introduced me to the church when I was very young. I do not recall a time in my life when I was not connected with the church, except it was a much looser connection while in college. Since most of my life I have been part of one denomination, I know the liturgy of worship, the way the church runs itself, and the correct responses and timing. There is comfort in the familiarity of being a member of a church most of your life. There is also a pitfall which comes with being an active member most of your life. The pitfall is that you can easily become a robotic church participant.

The condition which I am labeling as “robotic church participant” comes from having such a familiarity that little to no thought is put into the actions and words which the person uses during worship. This also extends to going through the church year without thought to the meaning of the festivals and special days throughout the year. The person just goes through the motions of being a participant but does not have a spiritual feeling while doing so.

An example of a robotic church participant is when someone says the words of the Lord’s Prayer during worship but does not consider what is being said. The words are so memorized that there is not much thought required and the person just goes along with the audible flow of the other participants in worship. A person can easily do this because saying the Lord’s Prayer is so common and extends beyond denominational lines. This becomes very obvious if you happen to be worshiping with a congregation that changes a few words in the prayer, i.e., “debts and debtors” versus “trespasses and trespass.”

You may be asking yourself, “Why is this so important.” I think this is important because it seems to me that God intended the church to be about relationships. These relationships include between God and each individual, as well as, between the individuals in the church body. Relationships require thoughts, communications, and feelings. If a person is just going through the motions, then it is much more about completing a task versus enhancing a relationship.

If you are a person who has grown up in the church like I have, I caution you to not fall into the pitfall of being a robotic church participant. Engage yourself fully in worship, service, and the relationships which are a part of being a member of the church. Experience the spiritual emotions of what you say, the actions you take, and the commitments you make. I am sure that God prefers a fully engaged person rather than a spiritual robot. If God only wanted robots, God would not have given us free thought and free will.