These days, I often find myself wondering how the events of today will affect us long-term. How will children growing to school during quarantine adjust when more normal rhythms of life can resume again? How are the mass protests going to shape our national discourse? How are our leaders’ reactions shaping how we view leadership? But probably the question I land on the most is: how is the overwhelming scale of lives lost going to forever shape how we view ourselves, others, and the world?
As I’ve written about on this blog, I’m not very good at grieving or mourning. I will suppress my emotions for as long as I can until I find myself becoming irrationally angry, and then I realize that something’s wrong within me. If this season has taught me anything, it’s that grief and mourning are healthy. Sadly, many of us weren’t taught how to grieve well, even though it’s a natural part of life. But I hope that we’re leaning into that sorrowful space during this tough moment. I pray that we are learning that there are blessings on the other side of grief.
The Bible is filled with stories of triumph and defeat, gains and losses, life and death. There are many hundreds of years of history jam-packed into this book and I often find such immense meaning in the little moments or the transitions between stories. These days, I find myself getting stuck on one verse or phrase while reading through a chapter. The other day, I couldn’t get past Genesis 25:9.
A little backstory: Abraham was a man of God who was very old and had no kids. God promised him a son, but Abraham and his wife Sarah tried to help God out. He slept with her servant Hagar and had a son, Ishmael. Then God came through and Sarah got pregnant and had a son named Isaac. Sarah treated Hagar horribly and eventually kicked her out, forcing her and her son into the desert on their own.
A whole lot of life happens between Hagar’s exile and Abraham’s death. I wonder what Ishamael’s life was like and what he remembered of his father. Did Hagar bad-mouth Sarah for her evil actions? Did she throw Abraham under the bus for kicking her out? Did Ishmael learn to harbor bitterness in his heart or did he learn how to forgive?
Isaac also did a whole lot of living before Abraham died. Did his dad tell him stories about his older half-brother? Did Sarah carry a chip on her shoulder or guilt for kicking the servant girl out? Was Isaac curious about who his brother was or did he want nothing to do with him?
These are questions that I will likely never know the answer to, but I think putting myself in the story helps me remember that these were real people with honest, human reactions to the life they lived. Both of these men brought in baggage to their father’s funeral, yet their reactions to his death surprise me.
“Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite…” Genesis 25:7-9 (NIV)
Can you imagine this scene? Isaac and Ishmael were on exact opposite sides of an intense family feud. These two could’ve been at odds with each other, making this the most drama-filled funeral in the history of humankind. Or, honestly, they could’ve just agreed to not see each other—one of them could’ve politely (or not so politely) declined the invitation. Instead, they both decided to show up and honor their father. Two men who couldn’t have been more different came together in a moment of grief.
When I read that passage the other day, one thought lingered in my mind:
What if this season of grief could lead to a united church?
There are so many reasons for us to disagree and be divided right now, but what if we can find unity in this season? What if we don’t have to agree with each other completely, but we could still come together in a meaningful way to honor God and serve others? With so much darkness and heartache in the world right now, maybe we can find some comfort in coming together. Maybe our grief, sorrow, mourning, and heartbreak isn’t for nothing; in fact, maybe it can be used to glorify God.
Has your perception of grief or mourning changed in this season?
How do you choose to walk in unity daily?