Sympathy

A friend and I have recently suffered similar losses. We have both found some comments from lovely and well-meaning people to be maddening. Many a wise thought we acknowledge, understand, believe and even trust, but we do not feel. Sometimes, even those dearest to us and most respected by us cannot sympathize with our state of mind and heart. Or it may be that even if they actually could, we still do not perceive that they can. We only feel akin to those who are in a similar state or can clearly recall being in a similar state. This sympathy is so precious. It also legitimizes the love and thoughts you receive from that person in a way that similar love and thoughts from others cannot compare. They just don’t understand — are not moved in their gut the same way.

That precious gift of sympathy reminds me of the precious gift of sympathy followers of Christ have. We know that our God is perfect and on high, and yet STILL, because he was made flesh like us, subjected to trials and temptations and still found to be perfect, He is a God who can sympathize with us in our weakness. In our moments of self-loathing, of doubt, or of hopelessness over all manner of situations, He understands how one gets to that place, though he emerges perfect through all such trials and temptations. He is not just lofty and immaterial, but also walked the earth and was subjected to its darkness and senseless sorrows, as well as enjoyed its loveliness and joys. The One who judges and has mercy and sacrifices and saves and shows grace is also one who sympathizes and comforts. How worthwhile to follow with loyalty such a leader! And how much more precious His commands to us, given this sympathy.

Hebrews 2:14-18

14 Since therefore the children [we] share in flesh and blood, he himself [Jesus] likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 4:14-16

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are,yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

They call it “osmosis”

There you have it: the gummi bear was destroyed by the end, and by something so benign as water.

As we continue considering loss, grief, and any kind of transition in life, there is a point that needs to be made. (Surprise! Haven’t you noticed a theme in recent posts?) When we lose something, we replace it. On a trivial scale, I dropped my phone on the ground recently and broke the speaker. It didn’t make sense to fix it, so I considered it a “total loss” and replaced it with a low-end smartphone. (Hello decade of 2010. Sort of – still no data plan.) I digress. When we lose something, no matter how attached we were, we inevitably let other things fill the void left behind, or else consciously fill the void ourselves, even if it’s gradual and slow.

The law of osmosis: when high concentrations of solvent molecules move through a semi-permeable membrane to regions of higher solute concentrations. The lack of solvent molecules in one region of solution is an open invitation to other solvent molecules to creep in. 

The period of grief poses a sad but simple time when you can really feel all the words like “blessed be the name of the Lord” and “all is well with my soul” and “fix your eyes upon Jesus.” It’s emotionally hard to bear the pain but emotionally easy to rely on the love of God. After the most intense moments of trial have passed, emotions stabilize and are easier to bear, but it becomes harder again to feel the passion of your complete abandon to God.

This time-of-trial VS time-of-ease conundrum of drawing close to God is a most common concern I’ve heard amongst Christians. In the case of grief+loss it is easy at first to fill your loss with the comfort of the presence of God, but as the pain lessens and as life resumes, other things begin to take precedence. That vision of devotion once so clear becomes more clouded. In considering this, I’ve been reminded of a principle I just read in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus speaks regarding the Sabbath.

[23] One Sabbath he [Jesus] was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. [24] And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” [25] And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: [26] how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” [27] And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. [28] So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

(Mark 2:23-28 ESV)

The command to keep the Sabbath day holy is not a restriction from lifting a finger on the day of rest at all costs, but a call to honour God consciously with strength of discipline. ***

Similarly, with loss, it’s not that you can literally have nothing in your life but Christ. The idea is that as life continues and activities and people begin to fill our lives again, we will have grown some and will consider our motivations in how we fill our lives and to what end. We shan’t be passively filled by our convenient environments via osmosis, but filled by contending in the faith, working out our salvation in a spirit of submissive but eager obedience to follow a good and faithful God who called us before the creation of the world. Hopefully filling our lives in a way that reflects being a good and faithful servant cognizant that our Master will return and that the pleasures of the world shall pass.

*** (For my own benefit and for yours if you are interested, here is an article about rest and how to rest by Tim Keller that I want to remember: http://theresurgence.com/2012/07/11/5-practical-thoughts-on-rest)

Optimist Prime 11

Were the night eternal, no need to wake
Were tears a fount of blessing, abundant blessing I make!
Were pain ever constant, no shocking relapse from peace
Were the world empty, no cause for loss

Were I blind, no sight of the unattainable
Were I deaf, no unbearably painful news to hear
Were I mute, no hard decisions to announce
Were I paralysed, no need to move on now

Were there no memories, no good ones to fade and no bad ones to linger
Were there no exhilaration of joy, no comparative despair of grief

Were I cold and unfeeling, no sorrow ache misery sting dejection agony longing to feel

An Intriguing Song – Joy (Page CXVI)

Listen to this song, “Joy” sung by Tifah Al-Attas, and see if you laugh or not!

The dissonance between the words and the melody/demeanour sounds ludicrous at first. But once you understand the sort of struggle it is to have an attitude of joy amidst intense grief, it isn’t so funny. It’s strangely identifiable. You find yourself at peace with how things are, but also overwhelmed with loss, and you can’t pretend that everything will be alright in the end, but you can know that God is working purposefully, if for no purpose you can see.

Read Tifah’s story of loss behind writing this song: http://blog.pagecxvi.com/post/683764188/joy

Alternatively, you could watch this video of a live performance where she explains the song to her audience first.

Alas, I do not laugh anymore when I hear this song, for I understand its artistry too well now.

Daylight Robbery

Was searching Bible verses for “compassion” recently to pray for Haiti and instead came across one that is uncannily relevant to our break-in incident, though it is talking about confiscation and not theft.

For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. (Hebrews 10:34)

What do you know – there is a verse that quite directly talks about losing possessions but how we have a better possession in our relationship with God that cannot be taken away!

Curiously enough, I can think of a simple mathematical equation that makes it logical to rejoice in what is lost because of what still remains:

God’s love + what God gives – what God takes away + God’s love reflected through God’s people = God’s love + God’s love reflected through God’s people

Anyways, I am done being nerdy now.

(Imogen Heap has a song called Daylight Robbery! Of course I have heard it many times and yet have no idea what the lyrics are.)

Children and their magical mentor friends

In doing my 60s research for a history paper, I crossed paths with Peter, Paul and Mary and their song, Puff the Magic Dragon, [see lyrics] along with a link to the cartoon adaptation. I watched this ardently as a six year old!

Watch it at Google Video. (Duration 23:41)

“If they have Puff,” I thought, “maybe they’d have The Snowman too…” And they do.

Watch it at Google Video. (Duration 26:09)

Now, in reference to the title of this post, I will proceed to spoil the ending to the stories by talking about how they seem to relate to each other.

Aged 5 or 6 at the time I first watched these movies, I was an impressionable and sensitive young’un. These cartoons, produced 1978 and 1982 respectively, had the deepest impression on me, and I never really understood why until now.

In both Puff and Snowman, little boys discover a dear friend in the titular character, who appears ‘magically’ (in the sense that they should technically not exist). Puff and the Snowman respectively help the two boys discover more about their identity, self-expression, adventure, and the world; they are life mentors. Then, they disappear.

Whether with a formal goodbye, or silently in the night – the boys lose their dear friend of a moment. At the end of these stories there is a deep sense of loss, a slight sense of betrayal, and no sense of excitement for the future. Perhaps the Puff animation adds a little cheer to the original song, but Snowman is a tragic love story. It is a love story in the same way that The Princess Bride is a love story – between the grandfather and his grandson.

Passion we know is fleeting. Friendship we truly depend on. The love is not based on attraction, but trust. That is why these two are more tragic love stories than any romance is capable of being.