Stepping into the sunlight
Originally published in the Christian Science Sentinel
We normally associate grief with the loss of a parent, a spouse, or someone else close to us. The grief I felt after my dad was killed in an auto accident was a slow-motion, confused kind of sadness.
I was in my third year of high school, a time when it was hard to cry and easier to be numb and silent. Many years later, it was the Lord's Prayer - hearing it as though condensed into three words: "Our Father ... forever" - that broke through the lingering numbness.
The message I heard within said, "God really is our Father, Dad's and mine and everyone's, and always will be." I can't explain it any better than to say that at that moment, I was free of the feeling that I'd lost someone and something good. And I also knew that my dad was free to be himself, still needed by our Father and alive and well in His spiritual universe.
When my mom passed on more recently, I was better prepared spiritually and in every other way. She and I had enjoyed many visits over the previous few years, and I saw with certainty something of her God-given identity - that her actual selfhood wasn't in a body or a human history - and I just couldn't grieve over a loss that I now was sure never took place.
But what about the other reasons we grieve? There are many forms grieving can take - some so subtle that they become just another invisible weight, like a layer of clothes that we bear through our waking hours, perhaps unaware that through spiritual clarity we can become free of heaviness.
Some grief can seem permanent, an unshakable part of who we are - in the same way that some people think in terms of "my disease" or "my syndrome." Others would say it's just part of being human. Even a single remembered moment can make one grief-bound - perhaps the memory of something left undone, such as not having said, "I love you" to a friend before he was no longer around to hear our words. Or there are the lingering sorrows of missed opportunities, relationships not mended, friends we've lost track of, shortcomings we've not overcome.
We may even grieve over global troubles - for the millions who face poverty and hunger every day, for the millions more who live under oppressive thought systems, or over the abuse of animals, or the loss of unspoiled wilderness areas.
There is everything right about heartfelt caring. But it need not break our hearts in the process. And it will not, as we see that caring is not just a vulnerable emotional investment, and turn to what Mary Baker Eddy called "the great heart of Christ" in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (page 568). This book offers a liberating concept of Christ as the divine healing and saving power that is as present today as it was in Jesus' day. It's the power of divine Love itself, which, as it dawns in the seeker's heart, shows the permanent relationship that each of us has with our Creator.
An Old Testament prophet saw that this unbreakable relationship with God would "bring good news to the humble ... bind up the broken-hearted ... proclaim liberty to the captives and release to those in prison." Christ's love, touching human lives, would "comfort all who mourn ... give them garlands instead of ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourners' tears, a garment of splendor for the heavy heart" (Isa. 61:1-3).
That passage is from the New English Bible. The King James Version conveys the idea of the Christ bringing about an exchange, as one's thought is changed by divine influence. The King James Version text assures us that, even if we're harboring a long-held grief, eventually we can make a trade: "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
The fact is, grief in any form can be healed, although the healing may not always come quickly. The cure that Christ brings, though, takes us beyond merely gaining better control of emotions.
The Christ influence actually changes our understanding of who we, and others, are. It wakes us to spiritual existence, to know that God ultimately is all the Life there is, and is constant, changeless, wholly good. That we, and those dear to us, cannot lose this Life.
In one sense, all healing, including that of grief, is about moving from darkness to light. It's going from the confining weight of a material existence to the increasing freedom that comes with understanding ourselves as spiritual beings. What gets put off or left behind when healing occurs is not our humanness, but rather whatever there is in human nature that isn't tending toward a higher, spiritual nature.
Grief can be like standing in a shadow and feeling that the bright light that's out there isn't ours to enjoy. But I've never known the shadow that could hold me back from stepping into the sunlight - once I've felt irresistibly impelled to move forward.