Holy Week – Thursday

So far on our journey through grief we have looked at denial, anger, bargaining, deep sadness or depression and now we come to acceptance. In her understanding of the grief process this was Elizabeth Kubler -Ross’s final stage. It was only after her death that David Kessler, her co-author later in life recognised a sixth level which is finding meaning in the loss. So today we look at the importance of accepting the loss we have suffered as a result of the pandemic while recognising that even Jesus had to accept the loss that he was about to suffer for your sake and for mine.
It is important ot state from the outset that this is not about being okay with what has happened. This is not the case. How can any of us be ok with the tragic loss of life over this year, the jobs lost, the businesses that have gone under, the stress that business owners have felt trying to care for their workers yet cut costs to keep the business afloat. How can you be ok with not seeing loved ones for a year, eighteen months or in some cases even longer. We can never be OK about loss such as this but we can eventually come to terms with the loss that has occurred and recognise that the new reality is the permanent reality and accepting it. We may never like this new reality, but healing does not mean liking it means accepting so that you can slowly move into this new reality in a healthy manner.
Healing will look like remembering, recollecting and reorganising to fit in with the new reality surrounding us. We must try to live now in a new reality which includes the virus, the possibility of annual injections and having to be fluid in holiday plans because of reimposed travel restrictions as required due to new strains, new outbreaks and further deaths. In resisting this new norm, at first we might want to maintain life as it was before the pandemic but in time, through bits and pieces of acceptance however we will discover that we cannot maintain the past intact. It has forever changed and we must adjust. The more our identity was shaped by things that have changed, the more difficult this adjustment will be. As we heal however we will start to put the pieces back, maybe in a slightly different order and a peace will descend.
We see that in Holy Week as Jesus prayed in the garden. Listen to how the events unfolded according to Matthew:-
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. 41 ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’

42 He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’
Here we see in stark relief the grief and sorrow of Jesus. Luke says he sweated blood such was the grief and intensity of his prayers. For the young boy Mark, who was the only witness to these events as the others slept, this must have been terrifying. You witness here the bargaining, if this be possible take this cup away, the deep sadness or depression heightened by his closest followers inability to stay awake and then finally acceptance as Jesus submits to his Father’s will with the words, “may your will be done.” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in describing one case study, involving a young man killed in a parking lot after being caught in the crossfire of some gang violence, says this, “acceptance is a process that we experience, not a final stage with an endpoint.” I think that this is important to recognise. It would be too easy to say, I have accepted what has happened, now let’s just get on with life as if nothing has happened. But that is not true acceptance, that is reverting back to stage 1 and denying the reality of the past year altogether.
For the father of the boy shot by a gang member, he thought he had reached the point of acceptance until the gang member convicted came up for parole five years later. The proceeding were brief and parole was denied. But the father was more struck by how quickly it happened and the tears of the convicted man’s father. For the first time he realised that there victims on both sides of the gun. He walked over and shook the man’s hand and as he did so his anger was replaced with curiosity. He wanted to know about the father and hat had led him to that place. Over the next couple of years they started to meet regularly and they formed an alliance to help gang members stop the violence and find their place in the world. They went from school to school telling their story. His acceptance was deeper than he ever could have imagined.
We too can eventually accept the new reality around us. It will not stop us harkening back to the way things were. Goodness we all know that folk in the church are good at that. Remember when the Sunday School was full, remember when nothing was open on a Sunday so there was nothing to detract from worship. We will still remember, it is not as if our minds will be wiped clean of memories. But we will slowly accept that things are different and we have to do things differently. Already there are green shoots of hope. There is willingness in the community council and at St. Mary’s monastery to continue the partnership that was formed to create “Loving Your Neighbour” in order to continue to discover the needs in our community and to minister to those needs. We are looking at grants to help us adapt and thrive as one grant is even called. There is even possibly a grant that we can access that would help us to employ a mental health and well-being nurse, part-time most probably, to help with the emotional trauma of this year.
Jesus managed, through intense prayer, to accept his new reality. We can too and you never know, just as we will find meaning to the loss of Jesus on Good Friday so we might find meaning in this time of grief and loss. But to hear about that you need to come back tomorrow. May God bless you.
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