grief, liturgical, sabbatical, suffering, trust


I don’t know why but sometimes making a decision is really hard for me. Often I think it’s because I don’t have a strong opinion in any direction. But, sometimes, it’s because making a decision means I have to face something I don’t want to face.

I got married for the first time when I was just 3 days past my 21st birthday. I don’t know if it was fate or God or the Universe, but it seemed as though anything that could go wrong during those first few years of marriage did. Of course, there were many good moments while we were together, but there were just as many hard ones – death, cancer, college, job loss, house renovations, divorce, family struggles. It was tough. As our relationship was crumbling, I wanted someone else to make the decision for me. I remember crying and saying, “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it!” Unfortunately, we were the only ones who could make a decision. I think I wanted someone else to do it because then it wouldn’t be “my fault.” In the end, making a tough decision like that forced me to face a reality that I wanted to ignore. Making a decision made it all real.

Right now I’ve got opinions coming at me in all directions. If I cried out, “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it!” I know of several people who might take me up on the offer, jump in and take the reigns from me. I’ve noticed two general camps:

  1. Take as much time as you need. Grieve. Be present with it. Be gentle with yourself. There’s no rush.
  2. Yes, it’s okay to grieve, but…you’ll feel better when you get back into a routine. It won’t be that bad. Just confront it and move forward.

Both are valid. Both make sense. Both are coming from people who love me and want the best for me. However, I’m also noticing something else… Those in the first camp are comfortable with grief. They aren’t afraid of it. They honor it. Those people recognize pain and don’t push it away. Sitting with people in this group feels natural – we can be silent or not; we can cry or not; we can hug or not. With these people I am fully in the moment. I don’t worry about what’s next. I don’t have to put on a “face” with them – I am just me.

Camp two…well, I think these folks aren’t as comfortable with grief. I think they are afraid of it. These people want to fix my pain. It’s hard to see someone else hurting – I totally understand that. Because they love me, they want to find a solution, a way to make things better. So, they have a plan and are sure this plan will work for me. With these people I hesitate to cry or express my full pain. When I’m with them I find myself a bit more guarded and less likely to say exactly how I feel. And, with these people, my anxiety increases because we have moved from “here” to “then” – somewhere beyond this moment.

What I know for sure is all of these people love me. And because they love me, because I’ve let them in, I value their opinion. I take what they say to heart. I consider following the path they think is best for me. Unfortunately, right now, there are a lot of opinions – too many for me to follow. I know this wouldn’t be the case if I didn’t share so openly with others. If I kept my pain and grief to myself I wouldn’t have opinions to sort through. I get that. But, that’s not how I work. I share – maybe I over share – but that’s who I am.

However, I learned a few months ago that not everyone’s opinion gets to impact me an equal values. During my time at Ghost Ranch working through Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong, we were given an exercise. In a 1”x1” square we were asked to write down the names of all the people who’s opinions really matter to me. The original context was how to deal with criticism. I think the concept works well in this situation too. So, today, I’m going to ponder that. Who’s opinions really matter to me?


I already know two names that will fill most of the square – my husband and… ANNE. My opinion matters. My needs are important. Others can chime in with ideas and suggestions, but ultimately what I do is up to me. How others respond isn’t my concern. They will respond how they respond – that’s for them to deal with. I have two concerns – me and my marriage. How do I take care of myself? How do I allow others to take care of me?

There isn’t a right or wrong decision to make. There isn’t a life-altering choice in front of me. However, this is a crucial moment – will I move forward authentically doing what’s best for me in any given moment OR will I do what others think is best for me?

On this first Sunday in Advent, on this first Sunday of the new liturgical year, I want to move forward into God’s grace. I want to listen to the still small voice, knowing that God will lead me. I need to listen to the voice within – listen to it and trust it.


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