No, Thank You {Book Club}

“Enlarge your soul through grief and loss: surrendering to your limits.”

On the surface, I am not drawn to these ideas in today’s chapter in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. But more than any other chapter, this is the one that has stuck with me the most since I first read it. And it is the one that has much to offer us as a community of cross-cultural servants.

What are two things we are secret experts in? Grief and Loss.

The lists can be overwhelming and the losses never seem to end, do they? With the realities of teammates changing, supporting fellowships changing over the years, family members growing up and growing old from a distance, missed weddings, births, and holidays, the list goes on and on.

I am preparing for a trip to China later this week and as excited as I am, a big fat loss awaits me. The place I called home for over ten years has changed hands and I will not be able to physically visit the building as it is behind a gate I no longer have access to (or know anyone who has access to). Last spring when I got the official word that my former organization would no longer be able to live there, I cried.

I had lived there longer than anyone else in our organization and it was where I had lived the longest in my adult life. I had the best, best bookshelves on the planet. Do you hear the ache? I know you’ve felt it too, in some area.

I called a friend who had also lived there. “Amy, this is not a surprise, the hand writing was on the wall. Why are you sad?”

I am crying because even though I live on the other side of the world and it is not my home, in my heart it is my home on some level. And now, it isn’t. And it’s another loss. It’s the cumulative loss that wears me out.

“Limits are behind all loss. We cannot do or be anything [or have the housing] we want. God has placed enormous limits around even the most gifted of us. Why? To keep us grounded, to keep us humble. . . Our culture routinely interprets losses as alien invasions that interrupt  our ‘normal’ lives. We numb our pain through denial, blaming, rationalization, addictions, and avoidance. We search for spiritual shortcuts around our wounds. We demand others take away our pain.”

One of the limits I’d like to talk about is how different the reality of most ministries are compared to what I thought ministry would be like. I don’t know about your life, but my life looked a bit more like mundane tasks than thousands lining up to be baptized. And the pace?! I once sat down to figure out how much money supporters had given in my name over the years and the amount about made me sick. When I looked at what I had “accomplished” compared to the dollar amount, I felt like a huckster.

But that is why this chapter is vital for each one of us to read and let it soak into our souls. We are limited—and I liked/hated how Scazzero described as our “enormous” limits. It’s true, we are.

Part of God’s mysterious working is that as I have learned this lesson of grieving and learning to live into my limits (and fight the voices that say, “Amy, you need to be doing more, more, more!”), my soul has been enlarged.

Kay Bruner wrote an excellent post on processing grief and loss for TCK’s, and I found it really helpful for all of us (and has a humorous graphic).

Let’s talk about it more in the comments. How do you feel you do with grieving? What are limits that are easy for you to accept in this phase of life and what limits feel unbearably constrictive? This chapter is a complex one to engage with, but it’s also deeply important.

Amy

P.S. Next week is chapter 8 in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

8 Comments

  1. Beth Everett November 3, 2015

    Amy, I agree with what someone said last week – it’s challenging to comment with the thoughts that are percolating in me as I have been reading and re-reading this book – they are many and deep! I so appreciate the book of Job, and what the author outlined as “biblical grieving” … some quotes that resonated with me:

    – Pay Attention: “For 35 chapters we read how he struggles with God. He doubted. He wept. He wondered where God is and why all this has happened to him. He did not avoid the horror of his predicament but confronted it directly.”… “When we do not process before God the very feelings that make us human, such as fear or sadness or anger, we leak … Grieving is not possible without paying attention to our anger and sadness … The majority, like me, stuff these ‘difficult feelings,’ trusting that God will honor our noble efforts. The result is that we leak through in soft ways such as passive-aggressive behavior, sarcastic remarks, a hasty tone of voice and the giving of the ‘silent treatment.’”

    – Wait in the confusing in-between: “Job waited for a long time when the people closest to him quit. They did not have a big enough God to theology to walk through phase two of grieving – waiting in the confusing in-between.”

    – Embrace the gifts of limits: “Often we have larger fantasies and wishes for ourselves than our real lives can support. As a result, we work frantically trying to do more than God intended. We burn out thinking we can do more than we can. We get stressed and blame others. We run around frantically, convinced that the world – whether it be our churches, friends, businesses, or children – will stop if we stop … one of the great tasks of parenting and leadership is to help others accept their limits …”

    There are several other quotes I could add, but will stop here. To pay attention requires slowing down. Waiting requires slowing down. Embracing limits requires slowing down. We live in a world that does not value slowing down. And as the author mentions at the beginning of the chapter, “our culture routinely interprets losses as alien invasions that interrupt our “normal” lives.”

    So much to chew on. And as I am always telling my son, “slow down and chew your food properly!” 🙂

     

    1. Amy Young November 4, 2015

      Beth, I love this comment so much. I just cut and pasted two of the quotes and FB messaged them to a friend. So, thanks for helping me share :). This slowing down is HARD. I feel like just recently I’ve emerged from a four year grieving process. I kept telling my spiritual director (and everyone, please feel free to laugh at me) … and when I say “kept telling,” um, we had the same conversation over and over because I don’t agree with her :). I kept telling her that I was grieving the loss of China more than my dad’s death. He had hep-c, we knew it would come some day, and he’s in heaven. So, yeah, we miss him, but it’s all good. China, however, China was like being in a movie where the “hero” is seen walking away from a massive plane explosion. I felt like I had lost my life, but lived. And I was only mid-life so I had to figure out what to do with the next 50 years :)! At least that’s how it felt.

      But I can now see there was so much I was grieving (and probably always will, but have moved through the active, raw, I think I’m dying phase) and a big piece of it was/is my dad’s death. So, I feel like I haven’t said anything in this comment other than, the only way I’ve found through it is a slow walk and leaning into the grief. Which is SO EXHAUSTING. But the other option isn’t better :), so I lean and slog.

  2. Anna November 3, 2015

    Because of traveling and some other things, I haven’t had time to read this book.  This is making me really think I need to find the time to read it. 🙂

    1. Amy Young November 4, 2015

      Not to tell you what to do … but yes :), yes you should/could :)!

  3. Monica F November 3, 2015

    This book has been so good for my soul… especially as I’ve been processing this season in our life- stateside, while my husband writes his dissertation, and ‘waiting’ to see what is next.  We went back to the Middle Kingdom this summer to shut down our apartment in the countryside, see friends, team mates, and just ‘be’… to say ‘goodbye’ to the home we had there for seven hard, but amazing years.  It was our second home in the Middle Kingdom, a place hard to get to, rich in language and culture, and I miss it every day.  The fact that I don’t have a ‘place’ there anymore continues to break my heart.  Even the friends we have there text us and say it’s ‘weird’ to walk by our old building, knowing we are gone. So I get the grief and loss.  I knew that day would come, but nothing could really prepare me for the empty hole I have in my heart. Will be lifting you up as you travel ‘home’.

    1. Amy Young November 4, 2015

      Monica, that empty hole? I get it. Just this morning I was thinking of how happy I am right now, but what a LONG, winding path it has been and this “happiness” has come at a high cost with lots of grieving. Thanks for the lifting :).

  4. Phyllis November 5, 2015

    Again, I don’t know what to say about this chapter. I’ve said that or thought that too many times with this book!

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter, though. 🙂

  5. Jodie November 5, 2015

    This chapter had a lot of helpful insights for me. One of the quotes I wrote down was “Yet we all face many deaths in our lives. The choice is whether these deaths will be terminal (crushing our spirit and life) or open us up to new possibilities and depths of transformation in Christ.” I could relate to his list of 8 defense mechanisms we use to try to keep from feeling pain. And, like Beth, I really liked his discussion on Biblical grieving through the example of Job, esp the last step Let the Old Birth the New: “resurrection only comes out of death–real death. Our losses are real. And so is our God, the living God.”

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