Change, loss and grief
From any perspective, one cannot deny the deeply emotional experience of change and loss. It is a feature of daily life and is universal.
From the trauma of birth we are aware that separation and loss are not positive experiences, except that their anguish and pain also indicate the value and life that is in relationships. It is because life is in relationship that their loss is so difficult.
A baby’s anguished cries when its mother disappears from sight are but the beginning and the range of emotions stirred by loss of any kind become an almost daily experience.
It may be the teddy lost out of the pram or the car keys in the supermarket car park, a friend moves away or we change school, a relationship breaks down or someone close to us dies. Each plunges us into the same range of feelings because relationships of dependency and trust change or disappear.
All this seems quite inevitable, because it is human instinct for survival and life. Nothing that Christian faith might say can take away the pain and grief of loss or change.
What Christian faith does offer is a relationship of dependency and trust which is of greater significance than anything else we might experience. It is that relationship with God, who has given us life in the first place and who, in the person of Jesus, promises a relationship that cannot be broken or lost, except of our own will. It is God on whom we ultimately depend.
Jesus himself was no stranger to human experience or emotion and loss and grief were as real for him as for us. However, in the midst of it all it was his relationship with his heavenly Father that enabled him to share that gift with us.
As a lad, while his parents were distraught at having lost him on a visit to Jerusalem, Jesus felt secure being ‘in his Father’s house’. Later, we read of his clear sadness at the death of his friend Lazarus and his tears in the Garden of Gethsemane were borne out of the tensions between his relationships with his disciples and that with his heavenly Father.
For Jesus all this led to death and resurrection and the clear promise for us that life is more than death. Beyond this, Jesus left this earth with the promise that ‘another Advocate’, the Holy Spirit, would come, ensuring an ongoing and personal relationship with God for all who would accept it.
Spiritual journeys are very often viewed as those we take following direction or leadership. This image of the moving walkway on the Paris Metro, however, reminds us that we need to ensure that our personal journey is one that we are making. We cannot stand still to be simply carried along and there are clear choices about direction along the way and we must know that the direction we take is right for us as individuals.
For the Christian, the free choice that is God-given is vital. As Jesus invites us to ‘follow me’ there is freedom to say ‘no’, but it is the direction offered by the Christian church that encourages a ‘yes’ as the way that will lead to a richer fuller life in tune with the One who has given it in the first place.