I found a toddler toy around my house. I hadn’t seen it in near a year. I saw it and I didn’t touch it.
I let it sit in the corner behind that couch for days. If I touched it, I knew I’d weep.
Weep for the little one who threw it who’s no longer in my life, but very much a part of my heart. Weep for the many ways I’ve lost.
I remembered. I remembered how it got there. I remember when that little one threw it back there and I laughed and said I’d get it later. Later never happened.
Grief is the strangest and most absurd facet of life I have encountered.
Naomi, she is my girl. I think we’d understand each other well. I think we’d be great friends. Naomi was well acquainted with grief. She’s sort of been a role model for me with grief. She suffered: Foreign land. Widow. Death of children. Alone. Abandoned. Feeling forgotten.
Sometimes I think Naomi get’s a bad reputation, sort of shunned for being renamed from Naomi “pleasantness” to Mara “bitter”.
Yeah, life feels bitter in grief, in the process of grief, in the shock and pain of things you couldn’t quite prepare for, over things you could not control.
Those on the outside could probably look at her and think she lacks faith, that she’s resisting God. Perhaps even accuse her of not having an “eternal perpective” of joy and only looking at her “circumstances”. You’ve likely heard it if you’re a believer (maybe even said it yourself).. “You can’t rely on your emotions.” or “trust God”.
You see, that little toy was just a breaking point. I’ve lost a lot this past year. Sometimes the enormity of our loss leaves us open to triggers of grief, where unseemingly small things reveal large aches, longings. And those triggers reveal a place that was once filled, now dried up empty. Hollow and heavy.
But Mara, she was waiting for the redemption of God. She was in the pit and waiting, not denying the enormity of her grief. Mara wore her grief, she expressed it. She gave it room to breath in a culture that understood it, even valued grief. Sometimes it can feel like the whole world knows the facts of my grief, but no one knew of that little toy that remained just out of eye sight, me too afraid to touch it, too afraid I’d fall apart and be seen as “unfit” in for ministry. No one knew except for me. Too tired to weep again for things I can’t control. Just trying to maintain some normalcy, some rhythm, some sanity. Too afraid to start weeping again for the losses, for the grief.
Because in our world, we don’t wear grief. We are told to be “strong”, to have “faith & joy”, to “trust”. Almost as if it’s manufactured in a store and all we must do it purchase it. We don’t know how to honor our emotions. Instead we manufacture some semblance of what we think people should look and act like and we force others to do the same. But we’re missing the mark. We’re suffocating and creating cultures of loneliness instead.
Tragedy is a thief that steals our normalcy, our rhythm, our people, our way of live and living. Nothing about despair feels orderly or methodical. Nothing about tragedy allows us to remain the same, to keep the same routines, even the same way of relating to others. Naomi got that. She was more than a woman in despair. She named what she felt. She wore it in the most tangible way, in her name. No one questioned where she was at. She could no longer relate to “pleasantness”. No one second guessed her faith. No one gave Naomi “pat” answers. She just felt it and named it and grieved.
Sometimes we sit in our circumstances and not one ounce feels right; far from fair, far from just. I imagine that’s what Mara did. She sat in. She observed. She grieved. She winced at the insensitivity of others at times and tried her very best to be gracious, even in her bitterness. Because this life, this grief, tastes awfully bitter. I imagine that Mara, like me, wept hard. And life could not be the same. Ever. She could just not go back to who she was or what she did. Impossible.
Naomi is a woman I can follow. I know Ruth is lovely. I know Ruth had a lot of faith and trusted God… but Naomi, she’s my woman. She’s like me. She can’t hide how painful it all feels, how heavy the grief is. Even when others feel it is too much for them to see or watch. She wears her grief, perhaps a grief that intimidates and frightens others. And the most astounding thing happens through it, when Mara is able to air and live out her grief. She doesn’t stay Mara. She becomes Naomi again! From pleasant, to bitter, to pleasant. AND SHE PRAISES GOD. Maybe Naomi wasn’t weak. Maybe, in the act of wearing her grief, she was one of the strongest, no a doubter, but a griever and a proclaimer of God. Maybe, just maybe, in Naomi’s bitter state, she saw and experienced God’s presence far more powerfully than she ever could have in trying to maintain “pleasantness”.
Maybe we could all use some of that in our lives. Maybe our grief and pain isn’t too much. Maybe there’s far more in store if we could just figure out how to feel our emotions and be alongside one another in theirs.
Naomi, I can’t wait to meet her.