if there’s one thing in this life i am well-acquainted with, it is loss. i don’t say that with any bitterness or heaviness of heart; it’s simply the fact of the matter. i have lost my father, my step-father, my grandfather. i have lost a marriage. i have lost a job. i’ve lost friendships + family, opportunities and moments in time, and there are days when i’m hesitant to hold onto anything too tightly for fear it will slip through my fingers.
but this; this cycle of loving and losing, of clenched fists giving way to empty hands–this is the way of life, the shared human experience. the Lord both gives and takes away; i’ve seen it time + time again. i’ve sat with wives who have lost husbands, mothers who have lost children, children who have lost parents. i’ve held their hands in mine and wept silent tears for i can feel their loss, relate to the ache of emptiness.
and i’ve seen–seen that what appears lost forever actually isn’t. the things we lose we end up finding again down the road; perhaps in a different form, a different way, but found nonetheless.
here’s the thing, though: we are unable to receive, unable to find, unable to fill the empty places when we are still consumed with what was taken from us. yes, the loss is painful. it wounds our hearts, and the tears will fall, and we need to grieve and mourn for a time. but the old, at some point, must give way to new, or else we stay stuck. and sometimes, the only thing keeping us stuck is ourselves.
one of my favorite stories in the scriptures is that of Ruth, the foreign widow who walked away from the land she was accustomed to so that she may enter a new destiny. a study i once read on Ruth said that one of the beautiful things about this woman was her ability to “weep forward”. she knew what grieving felt like: she mourned her husband, her homeland, all that had been familiar to her for so long. but she continued to move forward, even in her grief. she worked. she found her way around in a new land. and then the day came when she allowed herself to hope + believe in love again–that what she had lost in Mahlon could be found in Boaz.
so what does she do? taking the advice of her mother-in-law, she takes the brave journey to the threshing room floor–but not before she changes her clothes. scholars have suggested that it is very likely Ruth had been dressed in the garments of widowhood up until this point, which is understandable, taking into account the great losses she had suffered. but before she goes to meet Boaz, she changes into her “best clothes“, which is incredibly symbolic. it’s as if she’s saying she was ready to leave the mourning behind and walk into the possibility of something new.
[Photo by H o l l y on Flickr]
dear hearts, please know that i am not invalidating the immense impact loss can have on us. it hurts; i know, and you have every right to cry and mourn and feel that pain. but i also believe in God’s goodness, that He does not want us to ache and grieve and stay empty forever. there are some of us who have been in our mourning clothes for so long that they’re tattered + torn, dirty + stained, ragged + coming undone at the seams. but we stay in them because they’re comfortable now; we’ve been wearing them all this time, and they’ve almost become a part of us. we’ve been living in the loss for so long now that we’re actually not really living at all.
i believe that there is a God who wants to fill, to re-fill, and to receive from Him means donning the new in exchange for the old. may we leave behind the rags of what once was in order that we may find what will be.