April 28, 2020by Reverend Dan on April 28, 2020
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”
Don’t get all excited. This isn’t a Jimmy Swaggart or Jim Baker moment. It’s more of a realization I’ve had in the past few days. I have been so busy writing and recording sermons; writing and posting daily devotionals; writing and leading on-line bible studies; calling and e-mailing and texting people to check on them . . . that I’ve forgotten to do something of critical importance.
I was looking for a certain book in my personal library yesterday, and on the shelf, I saw my copy of On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. I know the book well. I even quoted it in my own book about grief. Everyone who has ever read the book – and many who have not – can still name the five stages of grief she writes about: Denial, Anger, Sadness, Bargaining, and Acceptance.
As I drove home, I was thinking about those stages, and something hit me. I know grieving is different for different people. I know that you can go through each stage more than once and multiple stages at the same time. I know that some stages are more intense and last longer than others. I know that death is not the only cause of grief; that we grieve many things in the course of our lifetime. Therefore, in the midst of a crisis the enormity of this one, we are all experiencing grief, whether we realize and acknowledge it or not. Our world has changed. Our lives have changed. The streets are empty. We can’t meet friends for lunch. Businesses are shutting down and people are losing their jobs. The financial market is strained and unstable. The losses are piling up.
But we’re ignoring the grief.
I’ve heard many of the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and realize the grief people are experiencing.
Denial – “The virus is in big cities, not here in the country. Can you believe the government is shutting down everything? They don’t’ need to, it’s not that bad. They’re overreacting.”
Anger – “I can’t believe they’re making me stay home. They’re taking away my rights.”
Sadness – “We’re going to be stuck here in the house forever. I miss my friends.”
Bargaining – “If I can just go to get my hair done, I’ll wear a mask and not go anywhere else.”
Acceptance – “This is really happening. How do I deal with it?”
So, getting back to my sin in all this? I’m struggling just like everyone else trying to understand and find some meaning behind what’s happening. And I’ve realized the reason I may be struggling is that I didn’t take the time to grieve. I was so focused on keeping things going that I jumped right to Acceptance, and that has left me unsettled in my soul. There are some unresolved issues that I shoved down and didn’t deal with. And that’s not good leadership.
I believe the most effective leadership style is to “lead by example”. It’s been said that “a good shepherd smells like his sheep”. That means I must be there along with the flock, experiencing life with them. And that means admitting that I grieve. When I do, it gives those around me permission to struggle and grieve as well.
Grieving is scriptural, and it is human. Some of the great names in the Bible experienced grief. Joseph. Job. Ruth. David. Mary. So, why should I deny my grief? Like everyone else, I am grieving. Grieving for time with others that has been taken away that I can never get back. Grieving for people who have died from the virus. Grieving for their families. Grieving that I couldn’t be with them when they were sick and when they were dying. Grieving that I do not know what tomorrow will look like, and grieving that I can’t be more helpful in any of this.
It’s OK to grieve, folks. It’s healthy, and it’s scriptural. After all, if Jesus can weep, we should too.
“Father, Do not take away our grief. Simply walk with us through it. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”