Good Grief

Last night I spoke at UW-Whitewater InterVarsity’s meeting entitled “Epic.”  About 70 students gathered, and I was originally going to speak on the power of the gospel.

But then tragedy struck Mike Chaloupka, and I changed my plans.

The scary thing is that I have a file for a couple of previous sermons I’ve entitled, “On Grieving and Mourning.”  For one who works in campus ministry with university students, this is not a topic we expect to have to do often.  Nursing homes, maybe.  College campuses?  No.  I feel much more at ease talking about something simple like sex.

Anyway, I would rather reorganize my sock drawer or reinstall windows on my computer than talk about mourning and grieving.  I’m bad at it.  I like to stuff it – like my socks.  But like blogging, if I do it regularly and ongoing, it actually helps.

I was told by a friend that grieving is like a walk along the ocean.  Sometimes you just see the waves coming closer.  Sometimes you feel the waves wash lightly against your feet.  Sometimes it comes in strong, and your knees and bottoms of your shorts get wet.  And sometimes it hits like a huge wave, and it knocks you off your feet and sucks you in.

And there is no telling which one is going to come.

That’s about as accurate a description I can give to grief.  Everytime I have to speak on it or console someone else, afterward I end up reliving all of my previous grieving experiences – some are pleasant, some aren’t.

But inviting students to mourning is hard work – because we want everything to be all better.  We want to move quickly to resolution and make sure everything is alright.

Last night I invited Mike’s students to look at the death of Jesus’ best friend, Lazarus, in John 11, and how he responded as a model for grieving.  It’s interesting to see that Jesus didn’t analyze his symptoms, he didn’t give five steps on how to grieve, he didn’t

He did two things: he got angry, and he wept bitterly.

It’s OK to be angry at death.  Jesus was.

It wasn’t meant to be that way – our planet is broken, and we broke it and it breaks us back.  Jesus was angry at how the messed up world and death took his friend.  In fact, he was downright pissed off.

It’s OK to weep bitterly.  Jesus did.  It means that one who loves much loses much, and if the solution is to sanitize the situation and not to love at all then we’ve lost the point of the life.  To live is to love.  The day we stop loving is the day we start to die.

Which is exactly why Mike was such a great man – because he risked living through loving.  And he did – he lived and loved.  And the beauty is, he’ll be lovin’ forever.

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September 2008

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