People often tease me about my aversion to drama. They suggest I may be missing some kind of gene, the emotional one that seems to trigger and be triggered by some kind of emotional experience. But apart from the obvious way that being around persons who were dramatic in my childhood prompted me to look for calmer waters in adulthood, the other reason I am the way I am is death. Blogging about heaven these last several weeks has reminded me how often I am involved in funerals, memorials, celebrations of life. To be so involved is to know persons who are dying, to know those who love them and to spend quality and meaningful time with people who ache with grief over the loss of special people. That sense of “what is it all about” is a heaven-type of conversation and it reinforces for me how small many of our grievances are, how ridiculous our drama can be and how very little of it matters at the end of our lives.
I am not speaking here of grievance as it relates to a parent who abandons us, or an abusive spouse who called us names for 50 years of marriage or a sibling who systematically created a toxic environment for our family to endure. That to me is less a grievance and more of a trauma. And for any trauma there is need for healing, therapy and long lasting work for any kind of hoped for reconciliation. But when I think about the hours, the days, the months, the years and in some cases the decades of grievance over someone not inviting me to a gathering, or a slighted comment someone made at my expense at a party or not being asked to perform some duty at a gathering of friends and co-workers, I do think we will all regret this drama and the time it consumed in our lives.
Of course these dramas and grievances are the direct result of our own compromised self-esteem. All of us have weak points, I don’t like to be teased about my weight or being lazy. I don’t react well to either. My wife says that when someone offers an innocent tease about either of these topic at me in a public space she wants to leave the room before I have a chance to respond. It’s usually not pretty. But I do know that 99% of the sting of these comments is on me, it is not about someone being mean or nasty or intentionally hurtful, it is about my own issues with feeling heavy or lazy. And because I know this, deep down, when the moment passes I do not let it linger. It is not about them, it is about me. If I let such comments get to me accumulate, become the monster grievance can become, I would end up one of those people who carry a list of “hurts” to my grave. And in a heavenly context what we want to focus on in those last weeks, days, hours, is the love we received and the love we gave the truth we experienced and the justice we helped bring to life.
Now that I am older I find myself reminding others and reminding me that these “hurts” will pass, are more about me than others and need to be held in context, as they are small pebbles surrounding an ocean of dynamic relationships and cosmic revelations. Again, there are abusive and painful moments that rupture our identity, these experiences need professional help and intentional work. Life is not all a bowl of cherries and naïve positivity is a form of denial, not a healthy way to live. But surely one of the things meant by the Apostle Paul when he wrote to the people of Corinth, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways” is that as we mature we learn to separate the childish from the adult. Surely we must learn to separate the small and petty grievances from the life-changing traumas that require healing and work. If we don’t do this work, if we don’t mature, then the result is surely a large chunk of our time consumed with grievance that has much more to do with me than others. Heavenly conversations, talk that lasts and makes life worthwhile, needs space to breathe and the attention to be imitated by those we leave behind.