This is going to be rambling and I am going to mix a few metaphors, bear with me.
A river is the common metaphor for time. Time only flows forward, never backwards. Time moves constantly and takes anything along for the ride. The question then is are we moving through time or are we the agents of movement? Do we move time forward by our decisions or is time just rapidly moving ever forward, sweeping us in it?
People have been going to rivers for peace and quiet, for meditation and contemplation, as long as there have been people or rivers. I think it's because we recognize the power of something outside of ourselves. It takes years of schooling and millions of dollars of technology and teams of engineers to stop what a river does just by being a river. Rivers don't have engineers telling them where to go, how fast to flow, and what to flood. Rivers are just natural occurrences--reminders of the power of the natural world and its general apathy toward human desires.
I think we don't move time forward as much as get caught up in the stream. Well, I think that most of the time. Sometimes I lean more towards the side of my decisions are important enough to move time itself forward. But then I remember the time the river took a turn.
Twelve years ago the planet changed as far as I am concerned. On 2/27/07, my dad died. This was a catastrophe. Nothing happened in the years prior to prepare me for life without him. Nothing has happened since to make me miss him less. To be honest, nothing has happened to make any of this make any sense or make it any easier. If anyone were to tell you that grief is best aided by time, that person is a liar.
Sure, I'm not crippled by grief after 12 years, but it still grabs me.
You know how you might drive past a town with a paper mill or some kind of factory and it just smells horrible? You might wonder how anyone could ever get used to living with that terrible smell. You might think you would always be miserable living in a town with an odor. The truth is, you'd get used to it. Food would taste normal again after a while, and you'd be able to ignore the smell in the bleachers while watching a baseball game with your friends. Then, maybe you'd go on a long vacation and you'd return to rediscover how your town smells.
Grief is living in a town that smells like rotting garbage all the time. Eventually you get used to it, but that doesn't make it go away, and it doesn't mean you forget it. Something happens and not only are you reminded of grief, but it feels like the day it happened all over again and you have to get used to it all over again.
God is different these past 12 years. Not in a way that challenges Immutability. I'm not a heretic. God isn't changing, but my experience of God is changing. The best way to put it is my God is getting bigger and bigger by the year. The tiny God of 12 years ago wouldn't be able to handle where I've been or what I've learned about the world since then. God on 2/26/07 fit really well into my pocket and was there when I needed to pull handkerchief-God out and wipe away a quick tear. Then the river of time took the big turn on 2/27 and pocket sized God got really big really fast.
God was bigger than my religion or my Christianity or my church. God was bigger than my grief and my pain. God is bigger now to me than He's ever been. There's a line from my favorite songwriter Aaron Weiss I repeat to myself quite a bit. "Blind as I'd become, I used to wonder where you are, these days I can't find where you're not." It's a bit of a mantra to me.
If God is in the pain, then where isn't He? If God is in the midst of death and grief and sadness, then why limit Him?
The past twelve years have been an exercise in me learning to not be surprised by God anymore. I know God loves me. I know God is FOR me, and WITH me. I know these things. Even when I rediscover how bad the town of grief smells, I remember those things. Even when I am depressed, and unmotivated, and beaten down by life. I can either choose to react positively or negatively to every situation the river puts in front of me, and no matter which one I choose God will still be for me and with me. The town doesn't stop stinking, though.
*This entry has been reposted from Drew’s personal blog page http://drewcrowson.blogspot.com.