Posted by: Botolff | March 4, 2009

It hurts…it just hurts.

In this post it’s going to seem like I diverged way off topic, but hang with me if you will.

My day has been rocked by unexpected memories.  I was planning to work on OUR book today, and something happened.  A friend sent me an e-mail that in a matter of moments totally shifted my emotional state.  You see, it’s an anniversary today.  It’s one year since the death of a friend, and the e-mail reminded me of her death.  This friend was also the last woman that I dated.  A kind woman in many regards, and someone that I’ve come to realize I cared more about than I could admit while we were dating.  Unfortunately due to both of our personal challenges, our dating relationship went from a quick blossom to an inevitable wilting away.  We were friends first, and kinda friends after, but the days between those brief bookend descriptions were enough I believe to create a longing in each of us for something good that just didn’t, or couldn’t, come to fruition between us.  We were both hurt…but we both cared.  Sometimes “care” just isn’t enough.

It was more than a year between the end of our dating relationship and her death, but no time span mattered, because her death came unannounced and left so many of us stunned.  A brain aneurysm literally took her in seconds.  Like death often does, it came unexpectedly, swiftly and left no room for a real goodbye.  My attempt at farewell was offered as I stood in tears at the foot of her hospital bed well after she was gone.  As I stared at her body being artificially sustained by robotic breathing tubes and IV’s, I said these words to her…”I know you cared, and I think you know I cared.  It’s painful to know that we both hoped for something that never was, and that we were left desiring something beyond what we were able to give each other.  I’m glad you are free and sad that you are gone.  You won’t be forgotten.  Peace to you now.”  That was it.  That was goodbye.

As I have reflected on my relationship with her today, with tears in my eyes even as I type now, I realized how much it hurt to suddenly lose her.  No more opportunities for either of us to say “How are you?”; “I’m sorry.”; “I’m still hurt that you treated me that way.”; “Can you help me move?”.  But I’ve also realized something real important today about grief and anger.  The memory of her departure and my loss sent me straight into a deep grieving today.  A state I have struggled to enter on any level in relationship to what happened with the church.  I think I know why.  The loss that I have experienced with my friend’s death had no human intervention attached to it and nothing vindictive propelling it.  I am free to grieve because it feels like there is very little to be accomplished by being angry, and no one other than God to be angry at.  If I believed in a vindictive God, then maybe I would be angry at God.  But I don’t, so grief is what I’m left with.  It hurts…it just hurts.

One of my professors in my master’s program said that grief is the bedrock of anger.  We are angry because we’re hurt, or afraid of being hurt, not really because we’re angry.  Anger is part of grief, but in order to find healing, in time, we will have to move beyond the anger to a deeper grieving of the loss.  In forced terminations it’s harder to get to that grief, because many of us as ministers were forced into an unneccesary death.  It was an unexpected death that didn’t need to take place.  Things were literally ripped away from us, and others, by real people who could have chosen differently.  So much so, that for many of us, the loss is almost uncalculable.  I lost my ministry, the opportunity to spend time with my students, the chance to do activities with them that were already planned and all of us were looking forward to, the chance to follow through with the work I was doing with families, the ability to trust that what I taught the students and famlies still holds in the midst of such contradictory actions by the church leadership.  I lost friends, budding relationships, some faith in people, an income, a growing pursuit of a personal passion, people’s trust, time to play with other friends instead of asking them to help me recover, even more belief that Christ-likeness can truly be lived out in an institutional setting.  The list goes on and on.  All of which could have likely been avoided with a little humility, surrender, curiosity, honesty, boldness, and commitment to find and uphold the truth.  But because of people’s fear, cowardice, arrogance, contempt, malice and deception, what feels like an insurmountable outpouring of death washed like a wave through our lives as wounded ministers, and through the congregations we shepherded.  And many addressed it by attending the funeral, not by standing up and facing the unneccessary death.

Even as I typed that last paragraph I left my grief and I became angry again.  Why?  Because something could have been done about what happened.  Death didn’t have to be so prevailing.  That’s why I am so exposing with my posts.  Not to be vindictive, although I am not above pleasuring in retrobution, but because the secrets must be told and addressed in order for death to be faced and buried without the people it has clung to in the wickedness of it’s grip.  It hurts…it just hurts.  That’s why we’re angry.  And to tell us we shouldn’t be angry or not to be angry is like telling us that we aren’t worth fighting for, that you aren’t worth fighting for.  Even more so that we are expendable to death so that death can be appeased.  Death is never appeased.  It’s always out for more, and won’t stop because a sacrificial lamb was offered.  That’s why Christ death was necessary.  Not to appease death, but to conquer it.  That was the only way that death could be stopped.  No amount of bloodshed on the alter was good enough.  But it’s His death that makes life worth fighting for.  Because death doesn’t need to prevail here on this earth.

Even when we are perpetrators we are worth fighting for.  It takes a more cunning approach and a different level of boldness, but ultimately my desire is not for anyone’s punishment.  It’s for our repentance, because we are image bearers of God.  Again, I have feelings of revenge too.  At times I find myself acting on them, and have questioned almost every single move I’ve made in this situation.  I’m sure I am not without fault.  Certainly I have screwed up enough in my own life, but I would hope people would call for my repentance, not my obliteration.

To my students, the few innocent people, and even some not so innocent people, from the congregation I worked with who were unexpectedly and swiftly taken away from me in my forced termination…”I miss you.  It hurts like hell to know that death has prevailed in so much of our relationship.  I tried to fight for us as I knew how along the way.  I hope you will fight too.  Death in this situation cannot be appeased, but it can be addressed and pushed back.  I hope resurrection will be found.  I will always pursue that end.  I have never stopped caring about you.  You will not be forgotten.”


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