Two Things I’ve Seen Recently
I was watching Fellowship of the Rings this morning. Since there’s no way I could watch the entire Lord the Rings trilogy at one shot (the extended edition is about 14 hours of movie!), I have been working my way through it about 20 minutes at a time. This morning, I watched the scene where Gandalf faces off against the Balrog.
After Gandalf slips from the bridge Khazad-dum, there is this scene where the Hobbits grieve his passing. Aragon rouses Boromir, Legolas and Gimli and they move the Hobbits into action. There is this particular scene where Aragon and Frodo share a silent moment of grief for their fallen friend. Ultimately, this grief – the emotion of losing a loved one – is part of the complex motivation that moves Frodo to the final destruction of the One Ring.
Last night, I watched the final episode of M*A*S*H, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen”. The episode shows Hawkeye finally coming to grips with watching a woman smother her own child to protect a bus-full of wounded soldiers, doctors and refugees from a Chinese patrol. For the entire run of the show, Hawkeye had used humor and silliness to disguise his absolute terror at being in the middle of a war. In this episode, he is confronted with death he cannot avoid and he finally lets down his veneer. His dreams of big city practice are shattered and he decides to go home to Crabapple Cove, Maine, and set up a small practice.
Hawkeye faces other problems as well – knowing he will never see his best friend again, saying goodbye to Margaret and realizing he can never go back to the way things were. We are left to wonder whether Hawkeye will ever be able to adjust to life after the war.
How Grief Moves Us Forward
Together, these scenes got me to thinking about how grief moves us forward. None of us enjoy the grief we experience over the loss of a loved one or the dissolution of a dream. We are not supposed to enjoy it; nor are we to glaze over it and pretend like it did not happen.
Grief can be paralyzing. It can also breed dependencies (alcohol, sleeping pills, etc.). Sometimes it causes us to repress emotions. It is a very powerful emotion, and grief can be dangerous if it is not properly understood and channeled.
In Fragile Stone, Michael Card included a song entitled “Mourning the Death of a Dream.”
Each time we say goodbye it’s harder than before
Even after all the pain of parting still we find
That we must mourn the death of the dreams we leave behind.
There is a certain tragedy to the Christian message. In fact, it is full of death and violence. It does not do the message of Jesus justice to pretend like it is not a violent grace. We often allow the violence and death to paralyze us. We don’t like it; we avoid it. Or we indulge in it and get lost in it (some “prophecy” experts do this, almost relishing the death and destruction in the Apocalypse).
But the reality is that grief, violence, and pain are part of the human experience. We can be moved forward or held back. The decision is ours.
To move forward, we must embrace grief. We must intentionally resist the urge to repress, bury or vent. Instead, we must see pain for what it is and let it make us stronger.
Have you ever noticed that the grief and pain emotions are much more intense than anything else humans experience – even sexual euphoria? They can override love, self-control and even logic. When we try to repress something that powerful, we are bound to do damage.
The same could be said for trying to make sense of these feelings. They are inherently nonsensical. Rather than trying to “sort them out”, we need to go through them and stop trying to control them. Control anger; control depression; but don’t try to control grief. Let it advance you; go through it.
Again, Michael Card called this “sacred sorrow.”