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Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Quick Sojourn Through C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed

CHAPTER I
A red-hot jab, as in a fireiron cauterising flesh.  A salient image of a felt experience.  Certainly attested to by Lewis.  Those who know grief must also attest.
Amidst the prevalence of grief, Lewis asks, “Where are You, God?”  No sign!  He makes those of the faith a laughingstock, yet only those with faith get through grief unscathed by cynicism.  We’re not alone, he says.  Even Christ said, from Psalm 22, “Why have You forsaken me?”  Feeling forsaken, yet knowing the opposite, makes faith possible, but it doesn’t make faith any easier to understand.
To ask some things, irredeemable things, is to ask in folly, and grief makes us ask such impertinent questions.  Grief makes us feel foolish.  No answer from God.
Going into grief’s feelings makes us interact with shame, such feelings seeming unreal and unbecoming, wrestling with logic and the illogical, reason and irrationality.
Does ‘processing’ grief make any healing or harming difference… another conundrum in the midst of it.  (We know it does, but we cannot know in the thicket of indulgence, which implicates faith as necessary in the starkest winter.)
Self-consciousness meets others’ self-consciousness — can we talk about this nemesis?  Awkward silence, never really ourselves anymore, and we may be even a reminder of death’s curse itself.
Missing a loved one gone, in a bodily sense, is like feeling less than human.  They’ve died, and part of us vanished that day, too.
Oh, and the fear again; the inescapable fear!  Such blistering fear is hell itself.
Grief reminds us that our mysteries rekindle our aloneness.  We can never truly know ourselves, let alone someone with whom we were married.  How cheated we feel in grief.
Does death bring us back to a doubting of life?  Or, the efficacy of life?  Grief takes us to such perplexing landscapes of soulish bitterness.
And does the memory recall something vibrant in the eye; not so, it’s dim, and that’s grand larceny on an eternal scale.
CHAPTER II
To cast a glance on our reflections repeals disgust.  How can truth be so vile?
Life, “… a mean joke.” (p. 17)
Losing grasp of the one we love without wanting to, as if they slip away from memory like a waif swept out to sea.  Once the grip is lost, it’s irretrievably gone.
The phantom of the lost loved one’s presence we wish driven brusquely away; for one breathing moment in their attendance.
Our memory is as horribly convincing as it is false.  We forget people’s true presence, as our imaginations make of their memory something quite innovation… still false!
Live on in the memory…” — such a creative concept without the guarantee of veracity.
The utter vacuum that is the loved one’s death leaves us to ponder despondently evermore.
“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life or death to you.” (p. 21)  And, same page, “Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.”
The where-is-she-or-he question soon arises.  Another journey into nothingness.  The journey to God makes of them as of God — incomprehensible and unimaginable.
Time is but a reminder of death, where heaven is a manifestation of the fact that former things have passed away.
The truths and duties of religion are one thing; to believe.  It’s another thing entirely to speak of the human ability to relish God’s consolations, which are mere flickers, at best, and that’s all.
“It astonishes me, the way we are invited to apply to ourselves words so obviously addressed to our betters.” (pp. 23-24)  Grief seems to remind us how much more we’ve loved our lost than God Himself.
Cliché is disgusting.  Grief teaches us never to say silly things again, no matter how ‘biblical’ they sound.
Grief demands we question the ‘goodness’ of God.  Perhaps we can only know God is good by holding onto that idea faithfully.
The grace of prayer can actually be a preparation for torture.  We’re advised to be careful about what we pray for.
Of course, God is good, and our grief reminds us of our celled depravity we’re continually seeking to run away from.
Pain is irreconcilable.  “The drill drills on.” (p. 29)  It makes us constantly edgy, forever missing a part of ourselves.
CHAPTER III
Work and conversation are light relief from the grief observed.
Over the feelings, well over them, we feel, feel, then feel some more.  Too much feeling!
Amazing.  We’re promised suffering in our Bibles, but until we do actually suffer we never see those words.  They’re written in invisible ink, until sorrow befalls us one innocent moment.
We ‘trust’ God, only to find in our grief that we never did, and now that we don’t, we find we have to.  Suddenly behind the eight-ball.  Better that, however, than before.
We have to be “knocked silly” before we can come to our senses. (p. 32)
Getting our real thoughts off our chest, as the lamentists did, helps for a moment.  It’s a moment of raw human experience, showing us that even those who wish to be pious get angry.
Grief is a bomber squadron bombing mercilessly, and when you’re on the ground there is no time to regroup.
Grief tells us we actually know nothing, and suddenly it all makes sense — our thoughts are not His thoughts.
That we lost him or her was bad enough, but now this grief.  “Is it not yet enough?” (p. 35)
If God executes pain because He loves us, how much more do we feel hated for having been loved?  This grief insists there is another world to come!  There has to be.
Then comes the distancing; a time we’re part through the grief and perceive the lightness of healing.
“You can’t see anything properly until your eyes are blurred with tears.” (p. 37)  Such eternal truth we cannot know until we made that gut-wrenching trek.  Yes, grief teaches us to loosen our grip a little.  Desperation is a folly.
Look, the door isn’t so jammed shut!
Grief shows us the frustration of a flurry of impulses that are habitual — as if arrows of thought, feeling and action — uncontrolled in their array toward us, in our experience.
Grief forces us to reflect, and it engages us as students of our lives.
The only way we can realise that our lives are a “house of cards” is for God to knock it down.
Grief feels like we’re getting over it, when, in fact, there is more coming; just a little reprieve, along with a promise, and a hungering, for what will come, but not quite yet.
But feeling better comes with its own fresh confusions.  More to work through.  Guilt for happiness, but one.
Compassionate grief will inevitably separate us from the memory of the lost, but not before we’re willing and able.
And then, most the way through the grief, an attack worse than any previous other!
CHAPTER IV
Sorrow is not a state but a process.  It’s more connected to our narrative than it’s connected to a locatable place.  It’s a wistful thing like grasping oil in the hand.
Grief, and the nuances of life, invite us into successive modes and states of happiness.  A previous happiness seems strange, never quite a possession as it once was.
The “jottings” show progress, yet not as much as Lewis had hoped.  Still, content with such an observation.  No use not being so.
Praise is a prize part way through grief — “the mode of love which always has some element of joy in it.” (p. 49)
Grieving for a lost one is an invitation, through a cavernous investigation, into falling in love, truly, with God.
Even as we ask God for an answer, most the way through grief we get “rather special sort of ‘No answer’.” (p. 54)  The door isn’t jammed shut, but neither is it open.  There is a silence as in a mystery, and we’re invited into it.  And into the mystery we go, and in that, there, is a healing.
Postscript: all the words here are mine and not C.S. Lewis’, unless shown by quotation marks.  I have written based on the words I’ve read, and written these reflections according to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

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