Saturday, November 13, 2010

Joyful Grieving?

I mentioned in a previous post how I get a little concerned sometimes when people ask me how I'm doing. My concern is not with them, though, but with me. My concern is that unless I brush them off with a quick, "fine thanks," I end up talking about myself and my situation too much, which I don't like. Even here on the blog, I'm talking about myself right now and my way of dealing with talking about myself so much. Guh.

And that reminded me of Marcel.
Marcel is tiny and has one eye and lives in a shell and wears shoes. She is strangely amusing...

The thing is, I know people who are like this. People who, like Marcel, only seem to be able to talk about themselves and their little world: the predicament they've found themselves in, their limitations (like Marcel's being small), the things they like, the way they do things, and on and on and on, never really listening to what others have to say, and never investing much in others. Only very focused on their own stuff. In a word, they are a bore. Or, to put it another way, they are 'Drainers, not Fillers.'

In light of that, I don't know how to talk very well about myself when I'm asked. So if you ask, I'll try to give a decent answer, but if I seem hesitant, it's because I don't want to be a bore. Ok?

I've found a big, gaping problem with this whole grieving thing: it's pretty self-centered. I find myself thinking about how sad I'm feeling or how much I miss Janie, and I've noticed that I'm pretty tuned-in to my emotions at all times. Sometimes I'm sad, and can identify that as sad. Sometimes, this, sometimes that, blah, blah, blah. You get the point: Grieving is a pretty 'inward' thing. Natural, yes. Normal, yes. But inward nonetheless.

Here's something that I have found to be helpful: when I turn my thoughts outward, to other people, and if I can find ways to be more into them, if you know what I mean, I feel better.

And here's another even bigger thing: when I turn my thoughts outward even further, and think about God, I do even better.

For example, today I got pretty 'inwardly' focused (which I suppose is what any self-respecting psychiatrist would recommend), and spent some time and emotional energy thinking about how much I miss Janie. Now, don't get me wrong, I think it's ok for me (or anyone) to miss Janie. What I've noticed, though, is that the inward focus can be a rather slippery slope, and if I'm not careful, I can find myself sliding into a depressive funk. Do you know what I mean?

Should I stay right there, pining for Janie, as if pining hard enough will bring her back? I don't think God has that in mind when he says, "In [my] presence is fullness of joy" Psalm 16:11. But feeling sad can, sickishly, make us 'happy.' And by that I mean that it's a familiar place, and we don't want to leave it. But we must. That much inward focus is bad. Bad for the soul. And I'm a natural introvert, so take that look off your face, you introverts, and keep reading.

So as I began to notice that I was headed down that road today, I identified it as one of those challenging moments, and brought up iTunes and drank in some John Mark MacMillan. The song, Carbon Ribs, to be exact. Carbon Ribs talks about how we're stuck in this body, 'within the confines of these carbon ribs, and one day when when I'm free, I will sit: the cripple at your table, the cripple by your side.'

Grace, grace, grace!

And that reminded me of how King David found Mephibosheth, the crippled son of his best friend Jonathan, who had died (2 Samuel 9:1-13). David created a permanent place at his table for this crippled orphan. Let me say that again. David, King David, made a permanent place at his table for a crippled orphan. I just marveled at the fact that even now I, in a sense, am seated at the table of God, albeit as an adopted 'crippled' orphan, because of how he extended his grace to me in Jesus.

And of course Janie is experiencing God's 'table' right now, and that lifts my spirits right up to the heavenlies and so I weep with joy for her at the freedom and wholeness she is now enjoying.

And as I think on that, I'm not feeling that heaviness and dread I had been feeling before. I feel lighter. Do you see?

If Inward: sad.
If Outward: glad!
If God-centered, even gladder!

A friend asked me once about what I do to 'cope.' What are my 'strategies?' Well, I don't know if these are 'strategies,' but this is what I intentionally do when I feel sad, and they help some, maybe most, of the time: I read my bible; I listen to good, God-focused music (which can be as good as a sermon sometimes); I choose books carefully (meaning not too heavy for now), I walk and pray out in the woods; I blog; I make Janie's chocolate chip cookies and eat the whole batch (not really) and I just try to 'get on with life.'

Janie, looking to the future, said several times that she did not want me to make a lifestyle out of grieving, like this is all there is. Because it's not. It's a season, and it will take as long as it takes. But I'm determined to not be a Marcel, in my shell, and get all focused on myself and my grief, to the annoyance of everyone, including me. So, yeah, I'm going to keep on missing Janie. But I have an escape hatch for the heaviness, and its called, "run to God as fast as you can."


  1. and the truth shall set you free.

    Thanks for being so others-focused to share about being others-focused. and God-centered.

  2. See there it is: Even in sharing about how being others-focused helps me, I still had to talk about myself! There, I did it again! Argh!

  3. We really love that Marcel video, though, even if she is a little self-absorbed. The girls have most of it memorized, tone of voice and inflections and everything...