I’m stealing an idea from a blog I’m enjoying called Confessions of a Bad Christian. Dave Burchett lets his iPod Shuffle randomly pick a tune and then talks about what it means to him. I love that idea, but I would like to nerd it up a notch, so I’m including poems, as well.
On my heart today . . . Grief
Phrases from a poem that I first read in college by the English poet W.H. Auden are going through my head today. It’s really beautiful when you hear it read out loud.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Some readers probably think the speaker’s emotions are over the top, too melodramatic, too hysterial—after all, messages in the sky? distmantling the sun?
Think about the crucifixion. When the Father could no longer look on His suffering Son, He turned away, and the sun—well, you could say He dismantled it for a while: Luke 23:44-45 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
God made two very dramatic statements about grief and the significance of this death in those bigger-than-life events. And don’t forget how He shook the earth when Jesus rose. I love this about God.
Did Peter and the apostles and the women who loved Jesus mourn like this when he breathed his last breath? Did they drop their heads and whisper, “Nothing now can ever come to any good”? They did. Luke recalls how those around the cross beat their breasts in grief as they walked away. In Matthew, Peter broke down and wept. On the road to Emmaus, two apostles were recorded as having their heads lowered in sadness.
And oh, thank you, strong warrior King David, for being man enough to cry about Jonathan, Saul and Absolom.
This poem expresses that gut-level grief between the time of the implosion (moment of comprehension) and the time before you blot yourself up from the puddle you’ve become, reminding yourself that a faith-filled person does not stay bled-out. It speaks to that visceral being in each of us that churns and howls and beats its chest when we realize that for whatever reason, “I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.”
Sometimes I think that Christians especially are afraid to grieve, even in the quietest corners of our lives. We have been called to hope and faith and trust, so to express (or even acknowledge) this kind of grief seems to fly against what we’ve accepted as appropriate for those who have trusted in God. We equate deep disappointment with doubt, but sadness is not a sin.
I believe loss is the biggest thing that ever happens to us. For many, once there is “nothing now that can ever come to any good,” we begin our prodigal’s trek toward God.
When we honestly cry out to Jesus from suffocating pain, we can find love that does last forever (we were not wrong!), plus mercy, understanding, compassion, grace to lean on, forgiveness and strength to hold on for one more day.
He does not lift us off the road of grief, but He does meet us there.
So as painful as grief is, I’m not afraid to meet it head-on. Today I am thinking a lot about grief and forgiveness. And I’m thinking about Tennyson’s words, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
"The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun. . . . "