As most of us know, the island nation of Haiti was devastated by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake on January 12, 2010. Millions of people from all over the world have been affected by this. The people of Haiti live in extreme poverty, and so such a cataclysmic event damages these people even more. We pray for the people of Haiti, for rescue workers, and for the family members and friends of those who have died.
Four of my seminary mates were in Haiti at the time of the earthquake. Sadly, one of them was killed. His wife and cousin were able to escape from the building they were all in, but B was not. The other person in the country was not with the other three, and even, was in a different town altogether. She was bumped and bruised, but otherwise is physically safe. I give many thanks to God for bringing her back to the U.S. after many failed options, aftershocks, and experiencing to an extent the horrors of a natural disaster. We pray for S as she continues her journey home, and we pray for B's wife, cousin, family, and friends all over the world. The grief that has erupted is great and his loss is profoundly felt.
Today, the big church where I intern had a 9th grade confirmation retreat. The kids learned, played, and spent time together as a community of believers. They weren't all thrilled at having to give up their MLK Jr. Day off, but we appreciated that they came. In the midst of the day, the kids played a game called something like, "Taffy Pulling." It's a game where the kids link together by entwining their arms, hands, fingers, and legs. They hold on for dear life while other people go around trying to separate them all from each other. The last two people connected are the winners. I had never even heard of this game before today, so I stood back and watched.
In the middle of the game, as I listened to the kids' laughter and realized I was laughing myself, I heard one of the girls, who was deeply entangled with another girl, say, "I have no shame. I've won this game before and I will do it again!" I continued laughing and then I felt grief smack me in the face. The girl's comment made me think about how deeply we entwine our lives with those around us and how we hold on for dear life. Our lives are enriched in many ways by the social interactions we have with those in our lives. When someone we love dies, it is painful as that person is wrenched away from us. We wish to hold on, for the hands that pry to go away.
But the thing is, grief is not a shameful thing. We should have no shame in our grief because tears and longing are measures of the gifts of God in our lives. God gifts us with community and with the ability to love. When our earthly sojourn, however long, is over, God embraces the one we love, not as the one who has pried away, but as one who opens arms to show love. God embraces us through our tears and angst. God embraces. Through the embrace of a gracious and loving God, we grieve as ones who have hope. We hope in the promises made in baptism; in the promise that Christ remains with us not to the end of OUR age, but to the end of THE age; and in the hope that Christ redeems us in all that we are.
Today, I give thanks for the lives that entwine with mine, and for the gifts of God for you and for me.