Grief, love, and faces.

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.
But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands love is now
mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps the greater.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Love and grief have mingled deeply in my life this year. Perhaps for you also.

I know, too, that love and grief linger heavily in Connecticut this Christmas. In the aftermath of the unthinkable crime committed in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, the following poem was written by Cameo Smith (in the style of “Twas the Night before Christmas”). When I first read it, I wept. The Newtown school shooting shocked all of us… I remember hearing the initial reports and collapsing in tears as the reality of loss and horror washed over me. I cried, too, for the families whose pain was unimaginably intense: 20 of the 26 victims were only 6 or 7 years old. Read the following poem. Let your grief be girded with the love of the Father, and pray the same for every heart immediately impacted by this tragedy – for “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Ps. 34:18)

Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38,
when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say.
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
“This is heaven.” declared a small boy. “We’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring.
Those children all flew into the arms of their King.
And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had,
He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below,
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.
He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”
“May this country be delivered from the hands of fools”
“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
“Come now my children, let me show you around.”
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran,
all displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
“In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”


AMEN.

In the shadow of such a monstrous tragedy,  I am reminded that people matter more than any idea or thing or possession or object on this planet. Jesus certainly thinks so.

And as this year draws to a close, I agree with Tolkien: “though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps the greater.” Love has the stubborn ability to grow even in tragedy and pain.

This year I have at times loved others well, and at other times I’ve used the name “love” for what was really only my selfishness and compulsion… wounding those who had loved me so well. God, help me – I want to love more deeply and selflessly next year. Like my Father. Like His Son.

I pray that God mercifully heals our wounds as this year comes to an end.

I pray that He rescues us from the selfishness we at times plunged into during these previous 12 months.

I pray that He redeems and renews the injured relationships in our lives.

I pray that He allows the ever-increasing tenderness of His love to grow up out of our grief.

I pray that “He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19).

Further up and further in.

_______________________________________________________

2012… Friends, faces, and memories from this previous year of my life:

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