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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

On Grief

-->I wrote this 2 years ago for our church newsletter during the fall of my daughter's first year in college. I am posting it here in hopes that it will help others who are grieving over the hard, hard things that come. _________________________________

A Hard Hobbit to Break

by Becky Schell

Explaining how a hobbit and a mother
must face the changes life brings,
and perhaps give help to others along the way.

“I am ready to go home, Sam,” was Frodo’s answer to his faithful companion’s suggestion that they had completed the task assigned to them by Gandalf. They had safely delivered the ring of power to Rivendell and home was tugging on Frodo’s heart, calling him back…to peace, to familiarity, to security. But Tolkien (Frodo’s author and perfecter) had other plans for the little hobbit; there was still a job for him to do, a long and arduous journey to take, fraught with danger. Through this adventure, he would be conformed into the image of a faithful, courageous, hero-of-a-hobbit, whose task was to destroy the ring (which so easily entangled him), along with the evil it represented, to protect his beloved home, family, and friends.

I relate to Frodo Baggins in this scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It is true that I am not a hobbit and I am not a guy, but I do battle against entangling sins (Hebrews 12:1), and my own world has been turned somewhat upside-down with change.

Among those changes, there are some which have been a long time coming and not unexpected. I knew full well that in the fall my children, Jeremiah and Kate, would be headed off to different schools to pursue their dreams. I knew when Jeremiah came back to our town to live for the first time in a long time that it was a temporary thing, that he would be going back to grad school. But knowing intellectually is one thing, preparing the heart to be away from him again is another. I knew that Kate would be going to college in another state. Saw her pack, helped her get her stuff ready, bought her things she would need…but going through the motions is one thing, walking away from her dorm and returning home without her is another thing entirely. Like Frodo, I look back to what was, and even though I am completely content to have them where they are, I can’t help but want them here again. I expected to miss them, and with Jeremiah it is easier because he has been away so much, but what has taken me completely by surprise (though perhaps it shouldn’t have) is the grief.

This isn’t my first encounter with that word. My older sister died suddenly when she was 39 years old, and though I had lost aunts and uncles and grandparents before, none were close enough to affect me so profoundly that grief came; true grief, not stop giving me grief, or Charlie Brown’s, “Good grief!”, but real grief. Until that time I had no concept of what it meant. Until that time it was just a word. But when I met it face to face, it was suddenly a thing. It had depth. It was larger than life and would not be ignored. I had to face up to it; I had to see it through. My pastor at that time recommended the book, Good Grief, by Granger E. Westberg. I read the whole thing through right after my sister died, and it made a lot of sense to me, but what I soon discovered was that though I thought I knew what to expect, going through the stages still caught me off guard. Returning to the book and rereading it as I experienced each stage really helped me to understand what was going on.

What I learned through that time, and what is helping me now, is that God created grief to help us cope with the tough times. He designed it to come in stages, so we don’t have to handle the pain all at once, which could overwhelm us. He takes us lovingly through our sadness and makes us stronger. We can rest in the knowledge that God will work our pain together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, and that the objects of our grief are in His care. Our pain will lessen in time. Our lives will go on, to His glory. And one of the sweetest things that our loving Father does with our grief is to prepare us to help others when they are grieving.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).

Is that an incredible verse? Father of mercies, God of all comfort: providing not only for our needs in the midst of our sorrows, but looking to the future and others of His own who will need to be comforted by us.

These are the truths that afford peace that surpasses comprehension (Philippians 4:7). These are the truths that keep us from grieving as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). 

Frodo finally did get back to the Shire, but his life was never the same. He was a different person and he didn’t quite fit in as he had before his great adventure. And though I will enjoy it when my children come back home, I know that we will each be different people as well. Still loving one another, still enjoying and even annoying one another, but our paths will only be joined for a time as we travel along the way that God has prepared for us.

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