Written by Tom Chamberlin
The night was still. The darkness that blanketed the sky seemed a shade darker than most nights. The air had a sweet, woody smell from the perpetual August sun that had laden the vast Indiana vegetation, escaping the clouds, allowing free range to heat up what fell victim to its rays. A warm breeze intermittently weaved through the hair on my arms and brought coolness to my tear saturated cheeks. The setting was beautiful. It was peaceful.
But the stillness was interrupted by the calamity of questions and assumptions ignited in my head. My mind and heart were at war with one another – an aggressive infantry armed with doubt and anger pursued and struck a fortress of hope and truth. The battle raged for months. I fell subjected to its normalcy, declaring the very essence of the battle victorious. This would be my future state, but my ignorance befriended me for the time being as the internal battle advanced, as I stood outside the home of my father, engulfed by the summer night, enamored by its eerie peace, awaiting the last breath taken by my father’s temporal body.
This was the early stages of grief for me. It actually started a year prior to that night when I learned of my father’s illness. Since then, I have learned much about it and the impact it has on one’s being. While I do not wish it on anyone, I can confidently say I am grateful for grief shifting my perspective on life.
Grief is inevitable whether you are an animal or human, it is part of life. When someone is removed from a person’s life typically the individual is swiftly reminded that life is short. Often grief will motivate a person to take a close look at how they have lived their life up to this point and how they will choose to live it differently from that time forward. But why? Why does grief have a force that can drive a person to redirect their life from what was previously lived? I believe it is intrinsic of the human nature to recognize life is precious. How this understanding is lived out is dependent on the filter in which one views the preciousness of life.
There are two types of people who are birthed out of grief: the self-minded and other-minded. Both start off the same: human, living within a worldview designed by experience and education, but grief shakes things up – challenging the person’s belief system which is where these two individuals part ways. They both realize that life is short and time is precious. But the self-minded chooses to put more focus on personal goals and dreams or adopt a YOLO mentality. Whereas the other-minded finds ways to make their life “count” – they leave a legacy by giving back to others. Ultimately, both are driven by the fact that life is precious. Let us take a closer look at both types.
The self-minded has an overwhelming desire to embrace life to the fullest, to enjoy every moment they have breathe in their lungs. These individuals may find themselves involved with passions that construct their identity because they strive for that next experience, that moment they feel happy. From the outside a bystander may estimate this individual is a lover of a life, but what they do not see is that this very cover-up has given this grieving person permission to not fully grieve, but rather a coping disguise. It might be because grieving is hard. It is emotionally draining and it forces the person to seek answers to the questions dancing in their head. There is nothing innately wrong with doing what makes a person come alive or live life to the fullest, but when it becomes one’s end route to life, it is the artificial answer to why life is precious, which is the real question both types of people are trying to answer.
The other-minded person commits to making all efforts to advance the good of all people. This is done in various scales, from locally to globally, through a non-profit or for profit. The hope is to make sure they do enough with the remaining time they have left. These people do much good and seem to have it all together, but just like the self-minded person, they too find themselves shrouded by a justifiable disguise. They have recognized that life need-not-be-wasted because it’s a vapor, therefore making it precious, but if they are focused more on this newfound reality rather than finding out why life is precious, than they will quickly waste grief, which is the gateway to the truth about the preciousness of life.
Grief is so strong that it stops a person in their tracks to assess the details lived thus far and those hoped to live. It then powerfully pushes the individual forward down the decided path. Often leaving grief and an unanswered question, “Why is life precious?” in the proverbial dust. But for those who investigate this question or those who work their way back into the dust to rebirth this question will find hope. They are still a self-minded or other-minded person, but they know the “why” to their life’s pursuit. The fully-grieving person, the one who is trying to understand why life is precious will conclude that life is a gift from God, and it is intended for everyone. There are two ways in which God has communicated this to humanity.
Firstly, he does this at the beginning of time when he created man and woman, breathing life into their lungs, designed to cultivate life through love. This same love which is God’s essence is what made the order of life: plants, animals, people, etc. It is an outpouring of who he is. Because God is love he is unrestricted to form life, therefore for anything to exist is a gift of love from Creator-God. But God’s most prized creation, humans, refused this gift of love and tried to repackage what God created, deceiving themselves to be the giver of their own lives. Again, God gave life as a gift and intended it to be for all, but our desire to be God believing we know better than him has led to death. Humanity returned the gift of life and exchanged it for death – physical and spiritual. But because God is love and he desires humanity to know this love, he comes down to earth to communicate again to his prized creation that he is the giver of life and longs to dwell in eternity with them. This is Jesus.
Jesus is the manifestation of God’s love lived out for humanity’s sake. That man and woman would make an exchange again, but this time, their former choice of death for the life found in knowing and believing in Jesus as Lord of their life. It is a return to God’s original intent to bring life to his created order because he is love. Since love is his nature, death cannot keep him from life, not even when God was nailed to a cross and left to die. Nothing can keep the love of God from prevailing. This is how precious God views life – he is willing to be punished for humanity’s sins so he can show them how much he loves them and wants them to have life.
How is it so for you? Do you know why life is precious? Have you distracted yourself from grieving so to avoid this question? Why not accept the loving gift of life from God, given through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? God thinks you are worth it. He even grieves for humanity to choose life over death. Are you allowing yourself to fully know why life is precious?
Know this: grief is unavoidable, so when it comes your way you are either going to put a bandage on it and change it out for another when it can no longer withstand the wounds that come with loss or you’re going to rip it off for the last time and allow God to breathe life back into what is dead through his son, Jesus.
How precious is life? Allow yourself to grieve and you will see.
Tom Chamberlin is the director of our Center for Care, our ministry that provides emotional, mental, and spiritual support through a wide range of services including free support groups and clinical counseling. If you need care, we are here for you! Please visit our Care & Support page to learn more or if you need immediate assistance, please call 330.655.8739 or email [email protected]