The sunny, February day compels me outside into the unusual warmth. While this rare opportunity beckons me to rake out the flower beds, I’d rather set aside yard work until spring. These days, I set aside things I used to enjoy like getting dirt under my nails.
But as I kneel beside the Lenten roses and scrape the dead leaves away with my fingers, I notice that tiny blooms are rising like a fist against winter. Suddenly invigorated, I rake and rake and rake away the decaying leaves. My plants need to breathe.
Something like hope rides on the fresh air, so I lean upon the rake to take it in. And I remember:
“The best advice I can give you is to lean into your grief.”
I had nodded at the kind lady as if I understood. But I didn’t understand.
In the middle of my yard, propped against my rake, I wonder –
What does that mean?
Although “lean into grief” sounds a bit cliché, I know this lady has experienced this kind of heartache. So I abandon my rake and decide to see for myself.
Underneath my soiled nails, fingers tap out a search “Lean into grief.”
Many stories, blogs, and articles appear, articulating a similar theme:
The process of grief can be long and bleak, like winter, but it’s necessary to let the grief take its course. Instead of pushing it away, patiently work through the pain. Eventually another season will come.
Ok, I get that.
Is that all?
As I dig a little deeper, I discover that the metaphor, “leaning in,” originates in athletic activities – which doesn’t relate at all to suffering, I think.
But perhaps it can.
In sports like snowboarding, skiing, or speed skating, athletes learn to “lean into the turn.”
The general principle (I think, because I’m no physicist) is that leaning in drives an athlete’s energy forward by acting as a counter-balance against forces that would drag the athlete down. It also suggests embracing risk and not shying away from obstacles.
I had visualized “leaning into grief” as if it were a crutch. And there are moments when the urge to wallow in sadness is greater than the longing to move through it. Sometimes that’s okay. I’ve been there.
But if “leaning in” is a metaphor for onward and forward, it changes the way I think about leaning into heartache.
Loss unearths emotions which are complicated and unique to every person. Scripture says that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). In this world, we are constantly confronted with the sting of bad news, disappointment with ourselves and loved ones, fading of health and vitality, media reports that disgust or frighten us, and stalled dreams. When we’re heart-sick, human nature (my human nature, at least) wants to push away and hide.
But a spiritual perspective of “leaning into grief” expects that any kind of suffering, although difficult, can be redemptive because there is hope, and His Spirit is the fresh air on which it rides. This means that when we want to run away from suffering, we actually do the opposite and allow it to teach and transform us.
So I get what’s meant by “lean into grief,” but ultimately I’ll fall flat if I lean into my unreliable feelings. I need to lean into something – Someone – unchanging, immoveable, and steadfast.
The times when I’ve tried to lean upon my own strength have left me at the brink of despair. But Jesus comes to my pain with a gentle reminder: Cast your burden upon the Lord [release it] and He will sustain and uphold you. He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (slip, fall, fail) (Psalm 55:22, Amplified).
Grief shows me what it means to live with eternity in my heart. I’m not just moving through … I’m moving toward. At times I’m still struggling in the dirt yet I’m persisting in the hope that life in Jesus goes on.
I lean through the heartache until I’m leaning with all my might on Jesus.
When we feel that downward tug of heartache or discouragement, we can throw our weight fully upon the Overcomer, and by His power, we press forward.
I encourage you to cast your burdens – those nagging doubts or restless worries or stabs in the heart – on to Jesus. He can take them because He has already shouldered the weight of a dying world. Go ahead and embrace the hard and lean with your grief, your troubles, your failures into His everlasting arms. Sometimes leaning, like me with my rake, means pausing. Sometimes leaning, like a downhill skier, means movement. Let’s lean into the One who, with perfect timing and tenderness, knows what is best for our healing in this moment.
What will “leaning in” look like for you today?
The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3: 14
… let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him … so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12: 1 – 3
The Physics Classroom – http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/circles/u6l2c.cfm
Skier – aLindquist @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/alindquist_/3529374910/