Monday, February 4, 2019

Casting a Net

Good Monday morning.

Last Monday I shared a lovely post in which I discuss human depravity, which has been on full display in our national news lately. You can find that post --- > here if you missed it. 

I hope you are well on what is a gray Monday morning for those of us in my corner of Louisiana. I learned a long time ago it is usually pointless to attempt to write around something. What I mean is there is such a strong brain-heart connection when you sit to write you are better off writing that which is pressing on you. So here goes. 

I was fortunate to attend the same school for some thirteen years. My K-12 education was conducted at a private school, & so from the age of four when I began kindergarten until the age of seventeen when I graduated high school I spent my school days in the exact same place. I am thankful for this, & I know well the comfort familiar surroundings & familiar faces can bring a child. 

You are never going to believe this, but at times I was disciplined as a student (which meant I was again disciplined at home because that's how my parents rolled). I cannot recall every instance of discipline over the course of thirteen years, but I do remember one incident that occurred my senior year of high school. Yes, yes, I was still getting in trouble even at the mature age of seventeen.

I played tennis when I was in high school. I've no idea who reads this blog, so I am not going to name names, but my tennis team regularly played another local private high school whose female players kind of always cheated. If you've never watched a high school tennis match, you may not know that the players themselves are the umpires. Isn't that crazy? There is no adult watching each match & determining when a ball is out; the teenage players make the calls themselves. This is a recipe for disaster. Can you imagine allowing a catcher to determine if his pitcher has thrown a ball or a strike?

At the end of one tremendously frustrating doubles match my partner & I lost (arguably because we were playing blatant cheaters) I lost my head. Long story long, news of my behavior reached my school's principal, & for a week (I think it was a week) instead of joining my friends in the cafeteria for our twenty-minute mid-morning break during which we could eat & chat, I was required to report to the principal's office & spend my break in there. I deserved the punishment, I did, but you know, cheating is wrong. I am over it. 

Anyway, seated outside my high school principal's door was an angel named Mrs. Jenny. She literally looked (& still does look) like an angel. She sounded like an angel. She was the inevitable bright spot of any visit to the office, be it of a disciplinary nature or not. I remember sitting in her office & chatting with her daily during my week of "punishment," & it didn't feel a whole lot like I was being punished. 

This angel whose smile is so intwined with my happy high school memories lost her husband last Thursday. She & her beautiful, sweet daughters have not left my thoughts or my prayers since. My heart hurts for them. 

I struggle with public grief. What I mean is there is no manual for how to use social media at any time, really, much less during times of grief. Some psychologist may disagree with me, & that is fine, but I think public platforms are probably more beneficial than they are detrimental for all involved where grief is concerned. Immediately we witness the initial outpouring of condolences, & we benefit from the ease with which technology allows us to quickly get accurate information out to heartbroken & grieving people. It's been my observation that the greatest benefit of publicly sharing grief is possibly realized in the months & years to come when social media can provide an outlet for grieving individuals who otherwise might bottle up their thoughts. They might one day be in a fit of despair & simply ask that others please pray for them. This request might possibly immediately result in hundreds of prayers being said on their behalf. I can't see that as a bad thing. 

I don't rush to make a public comment. I don't do this for a handful of reasons. First, there may be people who deserve to hear the news in person that might see my comment & either walk away confused or learn of the death of a close friend or relative on Facebook. I don't want to be the person responsible for that. I also have no idea what to say, & my fingers might hover over the keyboard for a few minutes before ultimately I walk away from the computer, or I put my phone down, & I just pray for them. The truth is probably that no one knows what to say, either in person or in a public forum. Words are wonderful, & I love them so much, but, to borrow Ms. Picoult's sentiment:

Words are like nets — we hope they'll cover what we mean, but we know they can't possibly hold that much joy, or grief, or wonder.

I am always tempted to write, "I am so sorry for your loss. I realize how inadequate these words are, but there are none adequate in this moment. I weep with you, & I am praying for you." 

I've thought a lot about grieving with others the last few days. It is Biblical, after all. 

And sometimes we laugh together
Sometimes we cry
Sometimes we share together
Heartaches and sighs

After his wife's death, C.S. Lewis wrote A Grief Observed in which he explains, "What we work out in our journals we don't take out on our family and friends." In Macbeth, Shakespeare writes, "Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break."

Give sorrow words. I think outlets like Facebook are possibly beneficial to those grieving, for it is certainly a platform that encourages lending words to feelings. It is a recording, a visual, of the outpouring of public grief. If public grief is an unappealing option, take Lewis's suggestion & write it out, work it out, in a private journal, or send a private card for only the grieving to read. I have never found myself in a situation I further complicated by writing about it. It will seem words are inadequate, & words cannot possibly fully convey or purge grief, but words are one of the best options available to us regardless of the depth of the emotion with which we're grappling. 

I have somewhat haphazardly cast a net today. Last night I finished reading Becoming Mrs. Lewis, which was the January book club book. We met Friday night, & it was a grand meeting. I may discuss the book more next week. For now, I'll leave you with these words from Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. These lines below are quoted in Becoming Mrs. Lewis, & I was reminded of them last night as I finished the book.

If words are indeed like nets, C.S. Lewis cast a solid net, coming closer than perhaps any other to explaining so many things integral to the human experience, certainly including grief & the hope of those who rest in Christ.

I hope you all have a good week. Please pray for the family of Mr. Bobby Jenny. 


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