We need to mourn…

We need to mourn – individually, communally, as a church, as a society, as a culture, as a nation.

Mourning and going through the stages of grief are really important. And our society is terrible at this. We don’t give any intentionality to it. Without mourning and grief, we can’t go forward because we don’t learn from what we have lost. We are literally trapped in a past that doesn’t exist any more. We can’t ever go back to the way things were – we’ve changed, others have changed, the environment has changed, our surroundings have changed, the culture has changed.

During seminary our family took a wonderful opportunity to do an exchange year of studies in Finland. It was an incredible experience. One of the best things that we ever did as a family. And when the time was up, we left. We had to move on. I had to complete my requirements for my M.Div. degree. My heart so wanted to stay. But that wasn’t possible. And so we left and moved on. I mourned the loss of being there. And through that mourning, I realized that even if I went back to Finland, it wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be like it was when I was there. That time was gone. I had changed and continue to change. The people that I knew there changed and continued to change. The situation was changing. Life continued on where we were and it would be different if we ever went back. That’s normal. But I couldn’t see that until I mourned.

As a society and as a church, we have much to mourn. We just don’t ever take the time to do the work of mourning. We don’t intentionally walk with people through the stages of grief. And that’s where we have an opportunity as followers of Jesus.

We need to mourn the people who died from COVID. The emergency is now officially over, but there are no plans to mourn what happened to our society and the world. We’re just going to pretend that nothing happened. We’re going to ignore how the world has changed. We need to mourn what has happened so that we can figure out how to move forward in a healthier way.

We need to mourn the relationships that have ended and died as a result of ideology. For several years now, ideology has claimed the life of many relationship within families and friendships, co-workers and team mates, church members and neighbors. We need to name the death of these relationships being caused by responses to the pandemic, fights over masks and other safety precautions, public responses to the pandemic, fights over the 2016 and 2020 election, fights over the January 6 insurrection, and more. Relationships have died because people have placed their ideology and belief system above the value of relationships with people. We need to mourn these losses before we can figure how to proceed in society.

We need to mourn the losses from mass shootings. Whole communities are struggling and hurt. Our political system is not responding to the pain. The losses aren’t just the literal deaths that have been caused by these shootings. But there is a ripple effect of what has been lost – political will to protect the citizenry, a feeling of hopelessness, apathy, a loss of emotional response to horror and destruction, a loss of a sense of safety. We need to mourn these losses before we can move forward.

We need to mourn the losses happening in our political system. The loss of trust in government in general, and elected officials to do their job. We need to mourn that our fellow citizens and voters continue to put those same elected officials back into positions of power even after those same politicians have expressed no interest or a willingness to do anything to provide for the general welfare of the people of this nation in the form of stopping mass shootings. We need to mourn the ideals of this nation that we are not even attempting to live into in terms of safety, equality, and justice for all. We need to mourn these losses before we’ll have the opportunity to restore health to our political system.

We need to mourn the reality that poverty is on the rise – homelessness, lack of affordable housing, child labor laws and protections being struck down, widening divides in wealth, and more. We need to mourn environmental destruction and a lack of stewardship. We need to mourn the loss of our democratic ideals and values due to elected officials passing laws to make voting more difficult in targeted areas and with targeted populations. We need to mourn these losses before we’ll be ready to act to provide actual care for the poor and hear their voice.

We need to mourn the loss of critical thinking. This comes in the form of book bans, shouts of “woke, woke” as a boogey man argument for anything that someone disagrees with, ignorance around sexuality and gender, and more. We need to mourn these losses before we will do any self-examination and see how we free people rather than dehumanize them.

We need to mourn the loss of humanity through our immigration laws and systems and how we are terrible at dealing with such things. The loss of seeing the humanity of people and recognizing the complexity of immigration and how it is more than just a border issue. We need to mourn these losses before we can possibly approach immigration in a way that recognizes the humanity of people and deals with the core challenges, how we contribute to them, and what we can do to help prevent immigration from being such a challenge.

We need to mourn the loss of what was in our churches. The huge attendance and pews being full. The large budgets and what churches could do. The established order that provided a sense of predictability and safety. The facilities that gave people identity and captured memories. The status of church as the center of the culture. The way we do religious education. The way we ignored difficult topics. The loss of connections. The loss of happy memories and those same things not happening into the future. The loss of sometimes toxic cultures and decisions making because we didn’t know any better. The loss of healthy communities and relationships that impacted so many lives. The loss of congregations that are closing without thought of what resurrection might look like. The loss of hope that the best days for the church are yet to come. We need to mourn these losses before the church can see all the possibilities that exist for the future, what the church will look like, and how Jesus is calling it to live into the mission that he has for the church.

We need to mourn the loss of so much more that I can’t even list it all here.

Yet, too often, we aren’t. And we won’t. And often we don’t even know that we need to. Or we don’t know how to mourn all of this or any of it. Instead we suffer – often feeling alone in that suffering. Just surviving as a shell to the next loss. Adding it to the long list of traumas and deaths and sufferings and pains that we have already endured. And at some point the weight of all of this becomes too much.

Which is why we need to mourn. We need to be intentional about mourning. And we need to do it together.

I used to think that people were being stubborn and willfully resistant to change. Some people are just that. But I think I was wrong about a lot of people. I think for most people who are stubborn or resistant to change, it’s because they need to mourn what was and they either don’t know that or don’t know how. And no one is helping them mourn. No one is guiding them along the stages of grief. No one is affirming their loss. No one is walking with them in their loss. No one is telling them that what they are experiencing and feeling is normal as a part of grief. We need to mourn. So we can live.

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