This past month has been difficult for me. As many of you know, my 17-year-old nephew committed suicide. My nephew, a bright, funny, charming, happy teen, who had big plans for his future, is gone. My nephew, who would fly out to visit me on his own, just to hang out with his aunt and uncle – my nephew, a teenager who would actually talk at length on the phone with me when I called – my nephew, who traveled to Washington D.C. to join our youth group for our big DC trip a few summers back – my nephew, is gone. I mourn for my loss, my sister’s loss, my family’s loss, and the loss of knowing that the world will never benefit from all the ways my nephew would have contributed to society.
Grief is a funny thing. When you are not dealing with loss, it is hard to imagine how life would change without the people you love – I could make things work, you think, when you rationally access how well your life is going with all you have. But when something or someone important disappears – especially suddenly and tragically – all bets are off. Emotions take over, grief takes over, and life is filled with the reality of loss.
In the wake of my own grief, I have found great comfort in the love and support I have found in the Lakeshore community. People have reached out to me with hugs and prayers, words of comfort, and shared silence when there was nothing to say. But even more than that, people have let me be me – grief-filled and not always on top of things – sometimes morose and sometimes giddy – far less focused than usual. It is this embrace that means the most – when I can be myself – loaded down with all the craziness of grief – and there is still room for me at the table. I am so grateful for my Lakeshore community and the ways it represents God’s arms of love.
Christian formation is all about recognizing God’s presence in the midst of our lives. Right now, it feels like grief has hijacked my life, but God has not abandoned me. God’s love has been manifest by the love and concern of so many – and I am deeply grateful. Two prayers rise up within me, in light of my situation. First, that all who come to Lakeshore would feel free to bring themselves – all their brokenness and all their joy – to the community. Second, that all would receive the love and embrace that I have received – in my own brokenness. Learning to live and love together is fundamental to our Christian formation.