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Grieving with God

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Our Soma family has recently suffered the loss of our dear brother in Christ Pastor Randy Sheets.

This post is shared with permission from Jackie Jarawan, one of our Soma Eastside leaders, who also experienced deep tragedy when she experienced the loss of a child. We hope her journey with grief will prove as helpful to you, as it has to us. She stands in the Biblical tradition of lament by taking her pain to God and confronting him directly with her confusion and hurt. You can see examples of this type of writing in the Scriptural books of Lamentations, Job and Psalms. For those who have not experienced deep levels of grief, lament can be shocking. But it is actually honoring to God when we give him our honest anger and haunting questions.

To see the post in its original location visit-

http://jjarawan.blogspot.com/2017/06/seven-years-ago.html?m=1

dear God,

seven years ago, you took my son.  one minute he was here, breathing and beautiful, brown-eyed and plump, and then he was gone.  i called and called for him, but i couldn't bring him back.  i couldn't turn back the clock, i couldn't change what had just happened, though i would have given my own life to do so.  my fire for You had been soaked, nearly put out, by that day seven years ago.   

it seemed like You had left.  i never knew pain like that before, and i didn't know how to make it stop.  i'd never cried like that before, never been completely unable to sleep or to remember simple things.  it was like someone had erased a piece of me. 

and the darkness, oh, the darkness.  so dark that all the things i used to see as good were trivial and troubling.  the constant condemning voice in my mind.  the triggers that lay around every corner.  the unpredictable way i would respond to the triggers.  the humility of grief on display.  the self-loathing that encouraged isolation and bitterness.  the loneliness of pain.  the surprising need to forgive others when they didn't understand.  the future that seemed hopeless and futile.  the things i thought i understood were suddenly empty clichés.  i knew i still believed, but i struggled to see Your light through the blinding pain. 

people cared for us, though.  they gave us their strength, their light.  they lifted and surrounded and prayed and encouraged.  they knit themselves together as our family, our friends, our church, our community and carried us, despite us.  days passed.  i couldn't see many of them.  the ones i could see, i clung to.  i think You knew who we needed just then.  they emblazoned themselves on our heart in a way that few have since.  

still, i couldn't talk to You.  i would sit to be with You, but only tears could come where i had hoped there would be connection.  i felt like You had let me down.  how can i trust You when it means terrible suffering?  doesn't suffering equate with punishment?  what had i done or not done to deserve this?  if i could find a definitive answer, then i could explain it and prevent it from ever happening again.  why do terrible people not suffer and the ones who love You do?  why does life have these unfair twists and turns and why do You not explain it? 

but you didn't answer my sobs and my questions.  instead, i only kept hearing that You loved me.  You loved my son.  You loved my family.  and You wanted me to trust You. 

then You gave us another baby.  which felt confusing and terrifying and overwhelming but maybe a tiny bit joyful.  and my heart healed a little and i learned how to smile again.  trust had curly hair and big brown eyes.  trust also invited my whole heart.  and shockingly, we were able to move forward with glimmers of hope. 

but talking to You was still hard.  fewer tears, but still holding back.  still not sure i could let You in, all the way. 

then the church started to crumble.  and You gave us another baby boy.   and so many hard things happened that year that i could only survive.  my anger started to burn.  it burned so much that i wanted an explanation from You.  i knew there was no where else to turn, but i still felt alone.  tossed around, struggling to understand, waiting for the next piece of bad news, assuming the worst was always about to happen. 

but then You did finally speak to my heart.  and it wasn't with a trumpet or a clap of thunder, but rather these questions: 

"will you accept all of this from My hand?  will you choose to trust Me again, with all of your heart?"

and i suddenly realized how lonely i had been without You.  how i wanted You to appear and speak and move the waters on my terms and You hadn't.  instead, You continued Your plan to bring the good news of Jesus to the world and invited me in to be part of it. 

and like the prodigal son, i ran back home and You welcomed me.  and i realized the empty pieces of my heart could only be filled by You.  the part of me that seemed to be erased is being rewritten by You.  You've set up divine appointments with people who need the comfort You gave us, and given us the precious joy of watching You work good in the midst of devastation. 

the tiny flickering flame of faith in my heart is slowly being fanned into a larger fire.  i am learning to look at You again, learning to talk to You, learning more about You and Your heart of love.  the more You show me of You, the more i want to know You, and the more i want to know You, the more You show me of You.  You are in charge.  i am not.  my life was meant for You, not for me.  but i am at my most complete when i am with You.  somehow, there is a song for me to sing only to You, and it involves every piece of the life You have give me. 

what i do know, and what holds me today, is that You are here, in my life, and nothing will ever change that, no matter how i feel about it.  my faith will mature as i learn to accept Your hand and believe Your Word throughout every event in my life.  trust will look different, but the Truth of who You are remains constant.     

seven years ago, You took me through my worst nightmare but You didn't leave me. 

You have pulled me out of the pit so many times since. 
You have put me back on Your path so many times since. 
You have taught me so many times since. 
You have comforted me and encouraged me so many times since. 

You have been enough so many times since. 

for that, i am grateful 

safely in You,
j.   
 

Ad Astra and the Sirens of Titan

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Brad Pitt recently put out a new movie that I found intriguing in its similarity with a novel I read this summer. 

Ad Astra is the story of Clifford and Roy McBride -  father and son. Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones) is a renowned scientist who has left his family and his son behind on Earth to go probing the edges of the Universe. His last known destination was Neptune, but Roy (Brad Pitt) has not seen or heard from him in years. Roy has followed in his father’s footsteps as an astronaut and now finds himself called upon by NASA to travel to Neptune himself in an attempt to recover his father and bring him home.

One of the momentous elements of the movie is hearing Roy’s voice as he records his mental and emotional states for the data log NASA is keeping. We also overhear him leaving messages for his wife.

“Hi Eve, it’s Roy. I’m away again, no surprise there. I just wanted to say... I made a promise to always be truthful but I wasn’t. I didn’t want you to go....”

This flash of vulnerability reveals his grief in being emotionally disconnected from his wife. But then he reconsiders and tells the recorder ”Delete. Cancel.” 

Through interactions like these we come to understand that Roy’s obsession with space exploration had pulled him away from loving the people in his life just as it had with as his father. Looking to space they overlooked the very people right next to them.

Roy logs,

“I’ve been trained to compartmentalize. It seems to me that’s how I live my life“

Even though he repeatedly claims to be fine, Roy misses his father and wants desperately to reconnect with him. 

The tension in the movie rises as he approaches his father’s spacecraft orbiting Neptune. The audience is left to wonder whether he will find Clifford, and whether he will be able to successfully bring him back home to earth.

I will not spoil the ending for you, but there is a point in the movie where Roy tries to convince his father to come home and finally love him as a father should. But, his father is still obsessed with the stars. He does not love his son or want to be with him anymore. His dad shouts, and then whispers,

“Let me go!”

 

This is like a knife to Roy's heart. And it makes you wonder why it is so hard for us to love the people who are right next to us.

 

The review for Ad Astra in The New York Times compared this movie to “The Lost City of Z” (also directed by James Gray). It also mentioned similarities to Joseph Conrad’s classic novel “Heart of Darkness.”

However, Ad Astra also bears a resemblance to a 1959 novel by Kurt Vonnegut titled “The Sirens of Titan.”

 

In The Sirens of Titan, the main character also lives during a time when space travel is possible and men find it difficult to love the people they are with. In the beginning of the novel, Malachi Constant  is shown a photograph of three beautiful women and told that Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, is home to such rare beauties as these. Vonnegut describes the Sirens of Titan,

“It was no ordinary photograph, though it’s surface was glossy and it’s margins white. Within the margins lay shimmering depths. The effect was much like that of a rectangular glass window in the surface of a clear, shallow, coral bay. At the bottom of that seeming coral bay were three women- one white, one gold, one brown. They looked up at Constant, begging him to come to them, to make them whole with love...He had to look away from all that beauty in order to keep from bursting into tears.”                      (Sirens of Titan p. 33)

The photograph captures his imagination and sets his life on a trajectory similar to Clifford McBride in Ad Astra. In the movie Clifford ends up orbiting Neptune, and in the book, Malachi Constant ends up on Titan.  Far from being the paradise he imagined though, Titan turns out to be an empty wasteland. The formerly alluring sirens turn out to be just painted sculptures carved out of dirt and covered with algae.

 Face to face with the wasteland of Titan, it dawns on the reader, as it dawns on the main character, that the sirens of Titan were never real. They were a mirage urging him to think the grass was always greener and keeping him from loving the people he was already with.

It is here we see why Vonnegut was hailed as a "literary idol" by the Times. Through the medium of Science Fiction he was reminding readers in the 60's of the same thing Brad Pitt is reminding us of in Ad Astra.

Life is about love.

 

“It took us that long to realize that a purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”                                         (Sirens of Titan p.320)

 

 

 

Posted by Rich McCaskill with

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