Jon Hevelone's blog
As a pastor I have lived long enough to be sharply aware of our mortality. The past weeks have shown that the First Baptist church family is not immune to the weaknesses of being human. I also continue to have the strong conviction that even in the face of death and other losses, there is hope. Perhaps you or someone you know will find my suggestions about living after loss helpful.
1. It’s a real loss — feel it.
When we live through the death of a person close to us our whole world is knocked off balance. It makes no difference that everyone else who has ever lived has experienced their own losses. Ours is something that hits us alone, and we must go through the valley individually. There is no escape.
Because we had developed a relationship with the one who is gone, there is now a void. The type and depth of connection we had will partially help shape the emotions and behaviors we experience. It is important to know that our grief is probably entirely within the boundaries of what others who have gone through loss have experienced. We are not losing control. We are not going crazy. We are in grief that is real. The pain that dogs us is one of the signs that we are dealing with the loss. Help yourself heal by feeling it. Cry. Scream. Get busy. Do nothing. Beat the stuffing out of a pillow. You are reaffirming your own life in a world that is terribly confusing right now.
Don’t forget to allow yourself to find some balance, to find a little healing when the time is right. At first it may seem artificial to find joy in anything. It may seem forced, or even improper. Experiencing something that seems nurturing or positive may lead to feelings of guilt. Go ahead and do it. As you feed your own soul and take small steps toward embracing life it will not only bring healing to you, but also strengthen a new bond with the one you have lost.
2. Lean on others for support.
The feeling of being alone is often overwhelming. We are convinced that no one else has ever experienced what we are going thorough. No one else can understand. In a way, those thoughts are absolutely right. It is your grief, and only you can experience it. Only you know the relationship that once existed, but now is changed by death. Only you know the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the interesting contours that form when two lives touch one another. If your relationship has been lengthly and close, do not expect to have the loss erased easily. In so many ways, you are alone.
This is the time that you, as a person in grief, must ask for help. Is there somebody else out there who has also loved or known the person whose death has upended your life? Connect with them. Tell stories about the old times. Share memories and cry together.
It is important for you to gather yourself together and take the first step toward finding the other person. People do want to help. We are just awkward in showing that we care. Most of us are not experts in how to be around grief, and we avoid it like the plague. We operate under the false belief that even mentioning the loved one will reopen wounds. We talk about the weather, or anything else to avoid the topic for fear of hurting the living. What those who are hurting need instead is to hear the stories about the one we loved. Tell how Jack or Michelle and the kids built the incredible snowman that was so gigantic that it didn’t melt away until late spring. I promise — there will come a time when it’s easier to share the joy of precious times.
3. Settle up with God.
Sometimes the sense of loss even includes feeling the absence of God. Is God there? Does God really care? Does he know our pain? Have we been left alone in our darkness? If God really is in control, why wasn’t the cancer cured? Why did the plane crash?
If you harbor thoughts like this, please know you are in good company, and be assured that God is big enough to handle your feelings. God loves us just as we are, with all our questions, our doubts, and our anger. Even Jesus asked his Father why he had been abandoned as he hung on the cross. You are not the first person to need a God who is faithful and who has promised to walk with us, even when our own personal faith is quavering and threatening to disappear. Our God does just that.
The good news is that when our whole world has been knocked off balance there is the possibility of rebuilding it into a stronger and more beautiful place than it was before. Going through loss and the accompanying grief often provides the catalyst for new spiritual growth. We begin to know the depth of God’s presence with us, and the fierceness of his commitment to us. The Apostle Paul in the book of Romans gives us the conviction: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
TOP TEN PREDICTIONS FOR 2015
1. The Bible will still have all the answers.
2. Prayer will still work.
3. The Holy Spirit will still move.
4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5. There will still be God-anointed preaching.
6. There will still be singing of praise to God.
7. God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
8. There will still be room at the Cross.
9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will still save the lost.
BLUE CHRISTMAS SERVICE
Sunday, December 14, 2014
A service of Christian faith especially for those approaching this Christmas in grief.
This service is for those who have a hard time when everyone else is happy. People who have experienced the death of a person close to them, have divorced, had a miscarriage, lost a job, have health difficulties or other losses and need a place of peace and reflection at Christmas. Together we will acknowledge the sadness and difficulties of the holidays but also will be reminded of the healing and hope we have in Christ.
Quiet hymns, scripture, a reflective meditation, prayer, and the opportunity to light candles of memory to remind us of the ongoing strength of the Christmas message. Everyone is welcome, regardless of church membership or where you are in your personal journey of faith.
Hypocrites. The church is full of them.
Haven’t you heard that complaint from people in your life? Haven’t you said it yourself? Research from the Barna Group shows that this is the most common complaint about churches made by young adults.
Well, I categorically deny that it is true, at least as far as First Baptist Arlington is concerned. Hypocrites in our church? Absolutely. But as you can obviously see any Sunday morning, we are not “full” of them. There is plenty of room for many more. I would guess our sanctuary could easily hold another two hundred or so without major crowding. Then, we could go to two services.
Christian churches are filled with folks who say one thing and then do something else. We sing “They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,” and then go out and walk all over people who cross us or just happen to be in our way. We hold to the high moral standards that happen to be our own personal “hot button” issues, but are blind to the ways we play fast and loose with our list of “acceptable” sins.
Somebody once looked at a group of people an awfully lot like us — people who did not practice what they preach — and said: “Woe to you…you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13)
This is a problem: when Christian people do not live up to the high standards of their faith, others notice our behavior. The way we treat the waitress, the tone we use with our children, the looks we give to others we pass on the sidewalk, the attitudes and behaviors that mark our personality are noticed. When what others see about us does not match what we say the label comes out: Hypocrite!
There is an easy, commonly used way to solve the whole problem, and get rid of the gap that leads to the dreaded label. Just lower our standards! If there are no high expectations, then there is no lofty height from which to fall. If I personally have no vision of truth, morality, or purposefulness in life, then I am free to live as it benefits me.
Shifting standards to whatever level is convenient or desirable is not possible for a Christian. There has been a high bar set, and if I am intent on practicing my faith, my goal is to shift my life upward to meet those standards. I have been called to follow Jesus Christ. Period. When I fall short, which I constantly do, there is forgiveness. When I get up and try again God does help. When I live Christianly, there is hope. And every time I fail to meet the high standards yet still keep on by faith, it is my prayer that those on the outside looking at me will see me truly for who I am — a hypocrite loved and being redeemed by Jesus.