Walking into Grief’s Emptiness

IMG_3806At the end of the evening of ministry or visiting with friends, I’m eager to get home. When I arrive I turn the key in lock and open the door. All is quiet. Usually a small orange and white cat greets me, with a grey one not far behind. But there is no “How was your day?” along with a readiness to listen. These past months I’ve longed to return home and share my day, my evening, my latest dilemma. However, I find instead an empty space following my mom’s death.

When I encounter these space, I internally cry out that the story can’t end here. I have so much more to share with her and that I want to learn from her. There are so many more places for us to visit and people for her to love.

In a journal I try to record my thoughts and frustrations in this emptiness. Friends and students are also around to listen. But still, who wants to hear endless small, mundane happenings from someone else’s life? A mother wants to hear all these things; at least my mother wanted to hear. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been able to share that the dinner with students went well or that I don’t know how I’m going to make budget. Eleven months since I’ve received her unconditional love and the best hug ever or simply heard that she was listening without being overwhelmed with well-meaning advice.

As the tears flow more readily now, I yearn to get past this season grief. To step into places that are filled instead of empty. Yet, I’m learning that this time is a gift. I’m remembering and holding on to the love of both my mother and father more fully as I recognize the emptiness in my life carved out from their physical absence. I’m also recognizing the solid foundation they left for me. A foundation of faith, education, and love that continues to support me today.

Moreover, during these times I’m more aware of the people in my life and around the world facing their own spaces of emptiness. Holding out empty hands in sorrow I know I am not alone and can maybe help fill the emptiness of others – not with easy solutions, but with companion tears. During such times as these, our eyes don’t have to be dry. In fact, God himself is intimately acquainted with grief in seeing and experiencing emptiness.

He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
– Isaiah 53:3

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved[e] in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.
-John 11:33-35

In this new season of grief it’s not time to seek comfort in just any promise of fullness, but to look into the emptiness and reach out. The house remains quiet when I enter. Are there clear answers? A response to the quiet emptiness of home? Not one that I’m hearing now. And I don’t know what it should look like. What I do know is that I can’t manufacture an answer that will satisfy – either for myself or for others – and as I try to manufacture something, the emptiness only increases.

Yet, there is a Companion who will remain with us, tears and all.  A Savior who also wept is ready to accompany each of us along the way.  Through Jesus fullness comes through the emptiness as we learn to rest on him alone and walk with others.

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