Spring is not here yet
This blog post is from my friend, Erik Eclov. He is a student pastor at our church. As I have said before, I firmly believe in developing people and giving opportunities for others to write about what God has been teaching them. Enjoy this post from Erik. ~ Brandon
About a year ago, a close friend of mine died unexpectedly.
He was fun loving and constantly moving. He was an ingenious tinkerer. He was married and had a son. He was the type of person who didn’t always understand people, and yet, he was loyal, kind, and patient with them anyway. He modeled the hands of Christ to me—and they weren’t as I supposed, only gentle and affectionate like when you care for an infant, but sometimes, they were calloused, covered in grease and oil, and endured long hours of work until the task was completed.
He and I led a men’s small group together at our church. I hadn’t known him for a large part of my life, but I was closely doing life with him every day. We were wading through the power and awkwardness of intentional relationships in small groups—which have a weird way of making men into more than simply friends, but into comrades—and into brothers.
His death was really my first experience of loss and, in turn, grief. For me, the pain, sorrow, and complexity of it all lingered stubbornly and reemerged unexpectedly. There were often moments, especially early on, where I felt as though we ought to all just give up, that it was hopeless to move forward with life in the face of death.
Not that long ago, I was a logger in northwest Arkansas. Day in and day out, I ran a chainsaw and cut down trees. While I was there, our crew grew and shrank, we bought equipment and broke equipment, and we worked on just about every type of land the area could offer.
In the winters, it was so quiet out in the fields and woods. The cold leeched the color from the earth. The trees stood solemnly, weathering the wind, rain, and occasional snow. Even the remaining birds rarely dared to sing more than a few quick notes in the off-season as we trudged through the mud. And the cold, quiet, emptiness of it all bore down on us. It was as though winter was trying to slowly beat us into going home and never coming back.
Just when I had forgotten there was anything other than winter, something very small would change. I would find a tick on the inside curve of my knee or see a red wasp crawling around drunkenly, and it would dawn on me, the bugs have returned.
The next day, my eyes would be opened even more. Not only would I see ticks or red wasps, but also ant flyers, mosquito hawks, pokey caterpillars, and violet grubs climbing out of the rich black earth. While I measured and cut up logs, I noticed armies of carpenter ants worked alongside me. And soon, the quick-footed cockroaches, prickly praying mantises, foot-long stick bugs, and screeching katydids would permeate the silence as well. All I could do was smile and peer with wonder at each new creepy thing that emerged. They offered hope that the seasons still do, in fact, change. The bugs would remind me that the woods were still teeming with life, and that out of the stillness, shadows, and decay, spring was coming once more.
When my friend David died, I was surprised by how, in a very real way, I could no longer see or feel hope. I couldn’t just remind myself of it or be encouraged with it. God Himself, and everything good I knew of Him, seemed shrouded and out of reach. The loss weighed on me like winter. Maybe God has made our hearts unable to bear anything other than the complexity of grief when we experience loss. Perhaps that’s why in Romans 12, we are commissioned to “mourn with those who mourn” rather than try to speak hope into them.
I learned that grief is a dark, but important season that we must walk in. We have to continue on through the stillness and the gray. We must trudge through the mud among the tree skeletons even though we want to give up. Although loss is something we always carry with us, grief is something that, after a season, we must release.
Perhaps spring is not here yet, maybe it is still a long way off, but I can see the bugs are returning. God whispers His faithfulness and His hope to me in small and secret ways. And I watch and wonder at these bits of goodness and know that somehow there is yet life here. It rises from the gray. It rises from the silence and the shadows and the decay.
I know that there is somehow promise, that there is somehow hope, even out of loss.
I try to soak it in as I do the wind, driving home from a day in the woods.