those who mourn

Last night we watched To All the Boys I Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You on Netflix. It was not as deeply charming as the first one. But it did make me cry twice! Once because Peter Kaminsky. And once when Lara Jean asked her underdeveloped old lady friend, “What if he doesn’t want me?” and the old lady friend responded, “Well, that will hurt like hell.” And left it there. No “but,” no reassurance that she could take it/would be OK/etc. That made me cry.

Because I have been so desperate to hear someone acknowledge that a bad, hurtful situation is bad and hurts, and not immediately rush to present the bright side.

I do understand the instinct, largely (in my observation) from Christian leaders, to encourage and reassure. That’s their job! It’s all Christians’ job: to be the light of the world. Yes, events and trips are canceled, but laughter and praise aren’t canceled! Yes, there is sickness and death, but heaven! Yes, things are dark, but light! There’s a place for that and some people need it; all people need it some of the time. But I do not need it right now, and I don’t think I’m alone.

What I need right now is lament, a prayer for help in despondency; my soul is full of troubles. What I need right now is Jesus weeping over the death of his friend Lazarus because he loved Lazarus so much, even though he knew that he was Jesus and was going to undo the death in like a minute. That didn’t change the fact of his pain. This is something we in The Church get wrong in general, I think, even when things are normal; we’re resurrection people, so there’s some pressure to not “mourn like those who have no hope” when a loved one dies. Yes, a core part of our faith is the idea that death is not the end, but it is an end, and not allowing ourselves and others to grieve and process or even acknowledge the deep pain of that reality does a lot of damage.

The world is different now than we thought it would be. Most of us have never lived through anything like this pandemic. I am extremely lucky and privileged in a lot of ways right now; my job is not in immediate danger, I’m healthy and so far so are most of my loved ones. But normally, right now I would have a fantasy baseball tab open and be obsessing over my lineup for the day, strategizing how best to crush my brother-in-law. Who cares about fantasy baseball or even real baseball being delayed? I mean, I do. And I care that I can’t meet a friend or even my parents who live a few miles away at my favorite brewery, because the breweries are closed and social get-togethers are a no-go while we all try to stay apart to stop the spread of this brutal virus we still know pretty little about. These are small things, but they are good parts of Normal Life and they’re gone. Not forever, but for now, which is the time we all live in. 

I had a trip planned this month to visit my grandmother and some other family and to see the Rangers play in their new stadium. That trip is canceled. That sucks. I have an NYC trip planned for my 30th birthday in May, and it seems very likely that it will also be canceled. That sucks double because the uncertainty, the inability to know what’s going to happen two months from now, is a different kind of bad than just knowing that it won’t happen. (While I was drafting this, MLB canceled the London series that was scheduled for June.) There’s a lot of research out there about how important it is to have things to look forward to, and right now a lot of us either don’t have those or have a lot of anxiety around not knowing whether we have them or not. It’s an anxious time even if you don’t already have anxiety. It’s a depressing time even if you don’t already have depression. Those feelings are real. Here’s a smarter article than this one about the collective grief we’re dealing with.

And this is just my own personal small-in-the-big-picture stuff. As I said, I’m lucky. Other people are losing their jobs, losing their ability to pay rent. Losing loved ones, who die alone because of the separation this thing requires. A huge fear hovering at the edges of my mind all the time: that someone I love will get this sickness and go into hospital quarantine and not come out, and I’ve already had my last conversation with them, my last hug, my last laugh. A horrible, morbid thought. But a reality for many people, already. Not just here but in other parts of the world before us, and if we didn’t notice or don’t care, that’s another horrible thing.

This post feels hugely selfish and despondent, but it’s where I am and not saying any of it has been bad for me. Every time someone says “it’s going to be all right” and I keep all of this in and nod, it’s bad for me. And I would just ask those people to maybe reconsider the instinct to say that, or to ask people to look on the bright side, or—most especially—to suggest that this pandemic is a good thing because it might scare some people into becoming Christians. It is not going to be all right. People are dead and dying. There’s no going “back to normal” from here. I’m not asking for constant mourning; I’m just asking for some acknowledgement that there is mourning and it’s real and belief in resurrection doesn’t change the reality of death, literal and metaphorical and however else.

I hope there are things that are buoying your soul. Some of mine: listening to Jon Foreman’s nightly Switchfoot song, finally watching all of Orphan Black (on Amazon prime), playing Fibbage with my family over Zoom, spending time with our new beautiful black Lab about whom I meant to write a post, whoops—next time. Of course, I wish for us the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. But I also wish for you someone to sit with you in the rest of it, in the not-peace. Some understanding and empathy, someone to talk to about all of this or about anything but this or to sit with you in the quiet. If you need me to be that person, I’m here; let me know. Another thing I wish is for all of us to be able to let each other know when we need each other, because we do, always, especially now.

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