Monday, March 8, 2010

The Finitude of Pain

My wife and I are currently going through a time of grief, that much you all know. What we are learning is that grief is a funny thing and what is even funnier is what value or meaning we associate with our feelings of grief.

I think we (we as people, not just Leanne and I) associate the vibrancy of our feelings to the value we place on something. This is why I felt unnerved back when we were dating. If I had a rough day, or was tired, I would obviously not feel exceedingly "lovey-dovey" when we went out that night. This bothered me, because I had a history of being finicky. The last thing I wanted to do was string this nice girl along. Over time I realized that my feelings-that-exact-moment were not typically a good measure of my love or commitment to Leanne. *NOTE* Please don't read this and think I never felt that way, it just wasn't all the time.*

So fast forward a few years and you come to grief and healing. We are now just a little over 3 weeks past Athan's passing. Some things have gotten easier, some haven't. I still teared up the other day while washing dishes because it is the kind of task that allows your mind to easily wander. All-in-all though, we are already feeling some of God's grace in healing. Our emotions are less raw. We can begin to talk about trying again some time in the future. While this is good, it can make me nuts when my first assumption is that if I'm not crying it's because I must not have really cared. Or I start to think that the amount of tears or general saddness is a measure of how much I miss him. If I don't hurt why should I not think that it's because I don't miss him?

This is where we need to apply our Christian worldview. It is fair to say that I will always miss Athan. I will always wonder at what could have been. I will always want to give him his first pocket-knife when he turns eight (and maybe his first Cricket Rifle when he turns five.... we'll see), but I won't always hurt. I won't always cry. I won't because I am a finite creature. Just as I am not capable of experiencing ever-increasing levels of pleasure (as in, there is a bodily limit to what kind of a "high" I am able to experience), so my finite body will not grieve forever. And it is right here where the world gets it all wrong.

The world (wrongly) defines love as a feeling. That is why people can "fall out of love" and then get divorced. This is why I could struggle with my relationship with Leanne when we were dating. This is why I can be foolish enough to question my love for my son based on my feelings. Love is not a feeling. Love is way beyond that. Love is a descision we make, informed by the sacrifice of Jesus (John 15:12-13). His love for us shows us what love is and our response is to love people we might not even like.

I got off topic a little bit there, but I want to exhort you all: Don't let your feelings toss you about like a wave on the sea (James 1:6). You are a finite human, your feelings go up and down, left and right, ebb and flow. That's ok. What's not ok is to equate your feelings with your committments.


  1. Your comments are also good to remember when I am at church and don't have an "religious" experience while there. It is good to remember that my feelings do not equate my commitment or God's promises to me.

  2. Yeah totally! That is a big one. It's amazing how often we allow our feelings to convince us of what is "true" or "real." I don't remember where I heard it, but someone wrote "Don't forget in the shadow what you knew in the light." I just love that. If God has revealed himself to be something then that is what he is, whether we can immediately see it or not.