I am always intrigued to see what the next Godspacelight theme might be and the direction in which it might send me. This most recent one, Time to Heal, sent me spinning more than a little.
Let me explain. It will say more about me than those who decide the theme, but I heard it in a particular way – as a command, rather than an invitation. Rather like an irate parent who declares, after much procrastinating on the part of a stubborn child, ‘Time for bed!’ I heard something I am sure was not intended – an expectation that we had had quite enough time to feel our pain and needed to get on with our healing.
I know that is not what was meant. It is a script which comes from childhood years, where I was encouraged to not make a fuss, and suffering was minimized as a protection for my parents. So I easily hear to get on, not to dwell, lest I be holding my own pity party.
But I’m not ready to move on from this season. Here in the UK, numbers are still catastrophic. Lives and businesses have been lost. Children are missing school friends and growing up with words like ‘lockdown’ at the front of their vocabulary and trying to ascertain whether the adults behind masks are smiling. The corporate anxiety is palpable. Living on the outskirts of a city and not allowed to travel, I’m longing to see the sea, always my place to encounter God. At times, I’m indescribably sad, though at others I can distract myself in various ways.
So I had decided I could not contribute this time. Until I suddenly realised there is another way to hear that phrase. Not ‘Time to heal – hurry up!’, but ‘It takes time to heal’. Of course! Yes, that I understand only too well. A lot of time. Much more than people think.
William Worden describes the tasks of mourning, a more helpful way to think about it, in my view, than the rather linear way that the oft-quoted stages of grief can appear to be. The first is to accept the reality of the loss: which in this pandemic is not just the tragic toll of death, but so much more. Loss of confidence, of hope, of connection in so many ways. You will have your own list. Take a moment to voice it. The second is accepting and working through the pain. This takes equal amounts of courage and time. Courage not to plaster over the cracks but allow ourselves to feel all that is there and find honest and real ways to express it. Time both because we will not be able to face it all at once and because things will slowly emerge we have not yet seen. Only then can we begin the equally brave task of adjusting to new ways of being which comprise Worden’s next two stages.
God, it seems to me, never rushes us. Jesus walked with his disciples on the road to Emmaus and heard their story, only then putting their sadness in the context of the greater picture of God’s story. So wherever you are on the journey to recovery from this pandemic, or if like me you have not even started it, know that you are held in the arms of a gracious God who holds all your tears in His bottle and who knows your story – past, present, and all that is yet to come. He will help you write the next chapter.