Pollen is just about everywhere I look these days and so is grief. It seems that no matter where I turn, everything is layered with a fine yellow coating. It is on every car, the sidewalks, in puddles. As I look out over the water to a stand of trees, one of them seemed to exhale a cloud of pollen just the other day. The yellow plume hung in the air and seemed to settle slowly, ever so slowly, down to the earth.
Many around me, myself included, are exhaling grief. It bubbles up in the most unlikely of places. In so many conversations, grief and sadness hover at or just below the surface. It wasn’t until the trifecta of tragedy struck close to home that I began to pay attention to the voice of grief and recognize how many of us are walking with her. Just as pollen seems to creep into the cracks and crevices of everything, grief settles in and makes a home in your soul. I find her just where I least expect and she leaves evidence in the mascara tracks on my cheeks.
Depending upon how you look at it, our pain like pollen,
can be an invitation to new life or just an unwelcome nuisance.
As we walk these final days in Lent, I am struck by the suffering I also see in the lines of Scripture which mirrors the pain in my own life and the lives of people I know. What we might relegate to the domain of church ladies and holy rollers, Scripture helps us to know ourselves better, come to grips with our struggles, and brings peace to our weary souls.
The words of Scripture are not stale, dusty remnants from your grandparents’ generation, they are as relevant today just as the day they were originally written. The bible is filled with people who suffer and grieve. Yet, God did not want suffering to be the last word.
Let this be written for ages to come that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord; for the Lord leaned down from His sanctuary on high. He looked down from heaven to the earth that He might hear the groans of the prisoners and free those condemned to die. Psalm 102:20-21
Our Good God leaned down as He heard the groans, the prayers, of His people and decided to do something more. God wanted to free us from the fear of death, the shackles of sin, and extend an invitation to fullness of life with Him. Where death had been the end of the story for each person, His love transformed death into something new.
You see, God leaned down and gave us a Savior. A man whose primary mission was to embody love and transform an instrument of torture into an instrument of grace. What was intended as punishment for a man who threatened the order of society ultimately cracked Jesus open to reveal His true identity as the Son of God. By bringing something wonderful from something so horrible, He revealed His Redeeming power.
The season of Lent reminds us of the enormity of Jesus’ sacrifice. As we gaze upon the Crucifix and see our beloved Jesus hanging there, we see the power of love and mercy in action. The love that held Jesus to the cross is the same love which transforms the evil of death into the power of new life even now. Jesus did not die merely to show us how to endure suffering, He died so that we might understand the transformational power of self-giving love.
Jesus took what we thought was the worst thing that could happen and transformed it into the beginning of new life with Him. It became a portal to the richest and most intimate experiences of eternal love.
Now, you might read this and be shaking your head saying yes, but… People are still sick. There are wars, racism, famine, and poverty. There is immense pain and suffering in this world. Interwoven with the pain is joy and happiness, yet pain seems to drive most of actions. You might be thinking, “I’m not quite sure where God is at work today. I am confused.” And you would be in good company.
Allow your confusion to bring you to prayer. Ask God the hard questions. Talk with a wise spiritual advisor. Find someone who can listen and be with you in the tension between the pain of today and the hope of heaven. We also need to grieve alongside our friends anytime we encounter suffering whether the loss involves the loss of a dream, health, or life itself.
Always looking up to Christ and ahead with hope in the future, we trust in the unfailing love and mercy of God. As St. Paul reminds us, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” (Romans 8:18)
Just as the pollen can appear to be a messy, sticky, sneezy, eye watering, bothersome burden— it brings new life in the form of flowers, grass, and trees. Our grief and suffering can bring new life as well. New life in the form of deeper connections with other people and a deeper understanding of the power of God.
So, as you grieve the losses of today, trust in the unfailing love and mercy of our Savior who opened the gates of heaven for you. Allow yourself to feel all the feelings. Laugh, cry, and savor the memories. Be open with others who are grieving as well. Reach out. Listen with you heart. Share your memories. Hold back on giving advice. Hug. Cry some more. Love and smile often. And, if you see someone with mascara stains on her cheeks from the love leaking out of her her eyes, give the girl a little grace and let her know.
This is one of my favorite songs and I hope it brings you comfort today, where ever you find yourself.