Home comforts

Another postcard from the land of grief

I am finding in this foreign land of grief that occasionally I turn a corner and find a familiar thing, as if transplanted here.  It is somehow out of place, like a bright red postbox on a Latin American street, but an equally welcome sight. I stumbled across just such a thing yesterday.

I spent some hours in tearful prayer in the peaceful oasis of Douai Abbey in Woolhampton. With me I took a Bible and a brand new bound notebook.  However, when I opened the notebook, I found a familiar  verse printed at the bottom of the first  page.  It stood there, like a bright red pillar box on a foreign street – a reminder of a more familiar home. This verse had been there when I set out years ago to work with the Belgian Evangelical Mission. When I arrived in the Ardennes to lead a team for the mission, the team accommodation had been stripped bare of every item of furnishing except for ….this verse framed above the fireplace. When Fiona and I got married, the minister handed us a Bible at the altar as a gift. On the flyleaf he had written…this verse. On the morning I moved to my new church here in Newbury, the last thing I read before my Bible was packed was …this verse:

Be strong and courageous! For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” Joshua 1 v.9

To read this was to remember that this foreign land is foreign only to me. I am no further out of reach here than I was in that other country.

Years ago, some friends of mine were stranded in the far North of Sweden and needing some help. I spoke to a friend in a global mission agency, who spoke to a friend in the Evangelical Alliance who spoke to a friend in the Swedish Evangelical Alliance, who spoke  to the pastor of the local church, who was dispatched to visit. Far away was near at hand, it seemed.

This land of grief is disorientating and unfamiliar in so many ways – but it is not out of reach. It has post-boxes too, which means that I can always send a card.



2 thoughts on “Home comforts

  1. The theory goes that “there are only 5 degrees of separation” between any 2 individuals on the planet. However that is no help when the 1 person we want to be close to has moved on to the next life.

    The reality of coming to terms with my aching desire for continuity of relationship with a person who had moved from this life to the next raised awkward questions about my relationship with a risen Christ. In the end it strengthened my relationship with God. It deepened my understanding of a fully loving and caring relationship on a spiritual as well as a physical level really means.

    I also know that no words will take away the pain of physical loss. For me the realisation that the loss I grieve is physical not spiritual helped me to come to terms with my new world

    Whilst I have seen much literature on the physicality of grief and the mourning of physical and spiritual loss, I have not seem very much counterpoint of faith in a risen Jesus and the loss of a much loved person.

    • To First Century Greeks the very idea of a physical resurection was vulgar. After all, in their opinion the physical body was a drag on the more noble soul, and the sooner rid of it, the better. When the physically resurrected Christ returned, asking for breakfast and inviting Thomas to touch his wounds – he debunked all of that. The physical resurrection was the proof that death could be defeated.

      We are unable to separate physical from spiritual – and the loss of physical contact with a loved one is not altogether diminished by the certainty of their spiritual continuance. After all, our physical bodies are the ‘User interface’ through which a meeting of hearts and minds may be expressed.

      I have found myself fascinated by a kind of curiosity about the nature of the continued existence of those who die in Christ. I do not doubt it – not for one second. That said, I have a kind of fascination about what they ‘do’ in heaven and what is their experience? I suppose I shall find out one day…