I am a recovering compulsive overeater, abstinent by the grace of God one more* day at a time. †
My chosen counseling professional is out of the office this week, so I cannot see him until next week. I spent some time with him and his wife, who is also a counselor, when we attended the same funeral last night. The reception afterward was a nice time of sharing. I have some different views on grief than some, and it was interesting bouncing them off both my companions. I have been burdened with the loss of several friends recently, including one to suicide and another of exceptional health and discipline even at an older age, who was taken suddenly in a traffic crash.
While I understand that those who die in Jesus are not lost forever but are transformed into perfect bodies and translated to paradise (1 Corinthians 15, Revelation 2:7), I do believe that this knowledge does not completely assuage the anguish of bereavement for their survivors. Jesus, who Himself is the Resurrection and the Life, was already planning to raise His friend, Lazarus, from the dead, but He wept anyway (John 11:35). He wept when he saw the emotions of the crowd. He felt the anguish of separation. He of all people had reason to hope. He knew that the resurrection of his friend was moments away and that the separation would be over with no delay, but he still wept. There is a time for everything under the sun: a time for weeping and a time for rejoicing (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4). We rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). It is proper and healing to weep. It is denial of our emotions that makes us emotionally sick. If we learn to express ourselves in healthy ways, we are in less danger of the dictator known as Self rising up and taking over again. It is important, at least for me, to allow myself to have emotions so that they are less likely to have me.
From today’s entry in Voices of Recovery:
“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inward peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset. Commend all to God, and then lie still and be at rest in His bosom.” — St. Francis de Sales as quoted in For Today, p. 357
We in recovery know it is prudent to avoid the conditions of H.A.L.T. – hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. Saint Francis knew another one: rushed and anxious. This exhortation also reminds me of what one Christian in recovery once said to me about our common history of claiming relationship with God but trying to dictate our worlds without regard for God’s kingship. She said, “I always knew God, but I had to learn to lean back into the arms that held me.” Letting God take charge means that I can sign off and let Him work the controls. I am free to be at rest in His bosom. Relax. He will be there when I get there. Wherever I go I will not be out of His care. His arms are big enough, strong enough, and long enough to cover me no matter what.
I might get tempted to think this means for me to rest and do nothing, but I notice Francis’ words, “do everything…” not that I am responsible for “everything” but that whatever I do, I should do it in this manner of quiet trust. I am not asked to refrain from all doing; I still have responsibility. All that I have is given me for the purpose of stewardship. What I have is God’s and there will be an accounting. When I commend all my resources and my life to God, then I can be at rest, knowing that whatever comes, His will has room to operate and His resources will be used for His purposes. What I lose I do not lose from my treasury but His; and what I gain I do not gain for my benefit but His.
There is great liberty in identifying myself, not as a god, but as a subordinate beloved child of the Creator, who is God of all the universe and Owner of everything in it.
From Proverbs 26 (NIV):
6 Sending a message by the hands of a fool
is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison.
While I am thinking of stewardship, it is good to remember that whatever word I receive from God is to be responsibly shared. When God gives His message to His children and they treat it foolishly, His mobility on earth is hobbled and paralyzed. I immediately thought of the folly of laziness, of a failure to deliver the message, but there is a worse folly: that of the duplicitous messenger. Such a messenger speaks fresh water to soothe then pours out bitterness that wounds (James 3:9-11). This venomous bait and switch has been the kind of hypocrisy that has marked a large part of my life, and it does more harm to God’s Church globally than any other. How many might be attracted to Christ except for all those pesky Christians! My hope is that God will make me true to the message He has given me, and that I would be an accurate representation of His saving grace, delivering that Word of God where He gives me the opportunity with all integrity, so that it can be received by those who are witnesses of not just my words but my life.
From my reading through the Bible, currently in Acts 2 (NIV):
(I apologize for the incorrect citation of yesterday’s reading. There is no 22nd chapter of John. I forgot to change the heading to reflect that we turned the page to the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The correction has been made. I have also switched back to the NIV, having made peace with Biblica, its publisher, for removing my preferred 1984 translation.)
At the miraculous outpouring of God’s Spirit at Pentecost, the Truth was heard by every ear in its native language, even as the men on whom the tongues of fire had come to rest spoke mysteries that bewildered, amazed, and perplexed those gathering around them. As Peter, the rock on which Christ’s Church would be built, began to speak with new power and reflect the Lord’s Light, the crowd was convicted to take action, but were not quite sure what to do. Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gave specific instruction.
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Turn and be cleansed, reverse and be washed, stop going the way you have been going and immerse yourself in the water and Spirit of Jesus, “Repent and be baptized.” Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” (John 13:8) Earlier He said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:5) The Spirit of Christ serves to convict and remind us of the Truth of Christ. His words will never pass away, and so it remains for us to follow them.
Now, my body has been washed and I have made my first turn having been consecrated in baptism, but my life is continually being reborn and renewed, growing up into the likeness of Christ, and that work is far from done. Each day, in fact each moment, I am called to return to relationship and offer myself under the cleansing fountain of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. Like a seed that dies and sprouts a new plant, so I have been buried with Christ in baptism and raised to become something new. As the human body is planted to give way to the heavenly body, so my spirit has been extinguished to give way to God’s Spirit in me, and bring my soul True Life. This is the miracle of Pentecost: the Spirit of God has come to those who will receive Him.
From the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, “Our Southern Friend”:
Sensuality, drunkenness, and worldliness satisfy a man for a time, but their power is a decreasing one. God produces harmony in those who receive His Spirit and follow Its dictates.
*Abstinence began for me on May 11th, 2010.
† For the sake of accountability, the details of my eating are posted in my online food log.
- Jesus wept (jharbin77.wordpress.com)
- Bulletin Article from February 24, AD 2013, “Can We Grieve Over the Death of a Christian?” (grantspasschurchofchrist.com)
- The story of Jesus showing humility by allowing His friend to die (yelenabosovik.wordpress.com)
- Redeemed! Rejoice! (godssceneryandpromises.wordpress.com)
- The Death of a Friend: Permission to Weep (tltake.blogspot.com)