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