LONG, long ago it seems, I was given the vision of grief as an invitation onto the Intrepid — a barely seaworthy vessel — to mount the furious whitecaps of open ocean. Like a bathtub, the vessel I was aboard, seemed so defenceless against the frenzied waves as they licked and lapped at its hull. As I continued to bob and float, somehow managing not to sink nor take on too much water, and despite my seasickness (yes, I do get seasick!), I became aware of the resilience of my vessel, Intrepid.
The longer I managed to float, in spite of the temerity of the swell and roughness of the seas, the more confident I came to feel about my chances of surviving to find dry land. I had gotten so used to feeling sick I was no longer bothered as much by it. My perspective was changing the longer I sojourned the voyage. I was adapting to my environment.
Suddenly there was land in sight. Yet the closer I got to the land the weaker I was feeling. I felt as though I’d die half a step before the finish of this great race.
The next moment I was on my back, struggling to breathe, with people all around me, some trying to revive me. And the following moment I recall — having drifted again into unconsciousness — telling my story… aboard Intrepid.
The Vision Explained Through Real and Raw Experience of Grief
Intrepid is the journey that is our lives with God. Life is the sea, and God is in the sea too, given he’s created everything. The most significant part of the vision is the length of the journey — notice that the longer the journey went, the more confidence I came to have that I’d not sink and be drowned.
The point was not how long I had to endure the grief.
The point was, with God’s help, the longer the grief lasted, the more I was mastering it.
If I’d have died out there on the crests and troughs, God would have taken me to heaven; no loss there for me, only for others who love me. Physical death isn’t what we should be most afraid of — it’s spiritual death of never knowing God we ought to most fear.
The length of the journey out on those wild seas wasn’t to be lamented. The length of the journey out there, away from safe land, taught me something I’d never have known or seen if I hadn’t experienced it for myself. My adapting to my environment was an eternal compensation in this life for what I’d eternally lost — my lost-to-self life; a loss that’s actually a gain.
God was making me stronger for the knowledge of his faithfulness; his unforsaken love couldn’t be seen unless I had every other crutch of my own removed.
I couldn’t understand how faithful a vessel God had given me in Intrepid unless I actually experienced her seaworthiness in the heat of battle. God was with me in Intrepid, all the way, in every way.
In seeing his faithfulness, gaining more and more confidence in him the longer I sojourned, my anxious heart learned to be still. My mind came to accept that life is life, nothing more, nothing less. My mind and heart agreed: trust God in everything.
Grief’s Purpose: to Usher Us, Through Invitation, Into Healing
Grief is an opportunity at healing we’d never get otherwise. Because we have much to be healed, yet we’d never otherwise know, God will allow grief to occur in our lives, so we must trust him. We’d have no reason or call to trust him otherwise.
Intrepid is the passage of faith through life that comes into its own the moment we’re struck by grief.
To be healed of our states of implicit brokenness we must lose everything before we can hope to gain what is truly of value: a true God-shaped perspective for life, without which our lives would be, and have been, utterly forlorn. Only as we stand back from this view are we able to hold both lives in vivid contrast: the life without dependence on God — a life that was vapid in vainglory — and the life with God truly in charge. Once we have the latter we’d never be tempted to go back to the former.
So we have before us two quite striking images. One life that was sailed over the crystal clear ponds without as much as a whisper of hardship — though there were hardships, but we made our own way in prideful ignorance to their meaning in our lives. The other encountered the surreptitious seas first by complaint, then by a surly resolve, then by a calmed acceptance. But the passage to the latter was only possible with God.
The longer we survived the harshest of environments, the more we realised our capacity for resilience.
The longer we grieved the more we saw the purpose in it; to learn that we could cope with any reality of life. And that’s healing; to know we’ve got the capacity to bear anything life could throw at us — with God, not without.
Grief is the invitation to journey through the barren lands of brokenness into the eventual hiatus of healing.
Healing’s not a destination, but a journey sojourning with God, happy with his provision, ever won to doing his will.
Grief’s purpose is to traverse us from self-dependence to God-dependence; from self-consciousness to God-consciousness. Until we’re found we’ll ever be lost.
Grief is the opportunity to adapt to a new environment; the way life has now become. It’s not the end of what was glorious. It’s glorious that a self-dependent life has ended.
Grief shows us that we can live life under any and all circumstances, where adaptation is maturity, and contented acceptance is our soul’s salvation.
Grief shows us where Jesus walks, and where Jesus walks we’re shown how to walk our grief by faith into healing.
Grief’s healing is the manifestation of walking the life of reality with authenticity. The more authenticity we’re blessed with, the more grief we’ll see, experience, and be equipped to handle.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.