A Grief Observed - page 2

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From the Spring 2013 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

A Grief Observed

by Jana Harmon
Teaching Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute–Atlanta

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  Questioning God, he realizes the futility and meaninglessness of it all, that he must suffer regardless of his intellectual ramblings. Pain will still be pain. Grief and fear pervade. Endless moments of successive emptiness remain.
  The third stop: The world goes on for Lewis, but it is flat and lifeless. Knowing that “trouble” is to be expected in his life does not help his failing faith. He begins to question the authenticity of his belief, his trust in God, his care for others. True tests, or “torture” as Lewis calls it, reveal true faith. Reflecting, Lewis states, “I thought I trusted in the rope until it mattered to me whether it would bear me. Now it matters, and I find I didn’t.”6 He desires a restoration of faith but realizes that this too may be merely another house of cards. He even begins to question his love for H. as a mere “card-castle,” as well as a relationship of egoism rather than altruism.
  In his turning, he sees God as the great iconoclast who offers remedial pain—to hurt in order to heal. The tortures are necessary. Christ suffered for us. God is indeed good. This realization brings about a lighter heart, a lifting of sorrow, a clearing of tears, a moment of clarity and release. His passions no longer blind or block God from view. The bolted door to heaven is no longer locked. Lewis not only sees his need, but realizes his newfound capacity to receive from God. He sees marriage and its end as a universal experience in learning to love the other. His prior intellectual insight (from The Problem of Pain) is finally met with experiential understanding. He sees the value of God’s testing, of experiential knowing. H. is not removed from his thoughts (and is in fact constantly present), but meets him in a profoundly good, real, authentic way.
  The fourth and final stop: Lewis now has the perspective to see grief as a valley with varied and surprising venues along the way, not as a circular, engulfing trench. It is a process. He begins to see signs of healing along the way, signs of hope, signs of God’s presence, a healthier remembering of H. He even moves toward moments of praise of the Creator, of his creation of H., of their time together. He rises from his self-imposed darkness to appreciate the comforting reality that he was never really alone. He realizes that his imaginations and passions overrode his reason, and he considers how anyone can “be utterly mistaken as to the situation he is really in.” 7
  In the end, he is convicted by two things. One: Remedial pain is worse than our “severest imaginings.” And, two: “‘all shall be well.’”8 We are in desperate need of what is real, of God, of others, not what is steeped in our imaginings of them, or even ourselves. Loving the reality of others is loving the reality of God, not our ideas of them. Loving the reality of God is loving the reality of others. He states, “I must stretch out the arms and hands of love . . . to the reality, through—across—all the changeful phantasmagoria of my thoughts, passions, and imaginings.”9

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