Do we even know how to grieve any more? or have we lost the ability or capacity to do so?
Save me O God, for the waters have threatened my life. I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters and a flood overflows me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched…Psalm 69:1-3
Scripture is filled with lament. Ironically, when it comes to heartache and conversations surrounding the church what I hear most is a move to pass swiftly beyond anything remotely uncomfortable and to be enveloped in comfort and hope for the future. It is almost as if we are afraid of sitting with the ache of grief. As if we are afraid to sit at the base of the cross. I hear this kind of move most often from adolescents. They are told that they are too young to know real sorrow. They are told that with experience they will learn how to find hope in all situations. They are told that they are in the easiest season of life and they should be grateful as the responsibilities and real life struggles haven’t yet begun.
I was in Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX when the Oklahoma City Bombing took place. We were close enough to have peers who had first hand connections but far enough away to still not fully get it. While being shocked in general what I recall most was being shocked at the iconic photo of a firefighter carrying a bloody infant in his arms. It doesn’t stand out to me for being so horrific, it stands out because I recall NOT being particularly impacted by the graphic nature of the photo. I had seen so many movies, shows and art where such things were depicted that by the time I was seeing the real thing, it seemed to just be a part of every day life, nothing out of the ordinary. But it was.
The Boston bombing took place a week ago. Since then there has been an explosion in West, TX and a shooting in a suburb of Seattle, WA. Not to mention dozens of local tragedies and worldwide horrors.
When I spoke with some teens this past weekend I was struck both by their knowledge of what had taken place in the last week and how “normal” they found it to be. There was no shock. There was no pondering God in this broken world. There was no grief over the loss of human life. They have seen and heard so much in their lifetimes that this is simply a part of the fabric of their worlds.
Nothing within me wants for adolescents to live in fear or struggle to cope with each new horrific incident. But I do want for them to know that this is real human life being lost. That those who were once breathing and now are not were created in the image of God just as they were. I want for them to know how to grieve and lament as part of the rhythm of life.
Perhaps we as adults need to figure out how to spend a little more time actually grieving and learning healthier coping mechanisms. For ourselves and so that we may pass on to the next generation a healthier way that maybe, just maybe doesn’t have to end in tragedy for an entire community.