Yesterday, a friend and colleague, Jen Huerta Ball fell asleep in Christ. Jen had a unique way of speaking the truth in love, an irrepressible joy of being known by Jesus, and a complete confidence that our humanity was involved in a long journey of transformation by the Word and Spirit. One might look across Facebook and read of the many tributes and expressions of grief from those whose lives were personally touched by Jen. I will add that when I first joined InterVarsity, I met Jen and Jon, and upon learning I was serving among international students, they instantly perceived the importance and dignity of me and of the service. I felt so loved: and I still do. And that embrace and understanding by Jen remained a constant thread in our infrequent meetings.
I’m not into folk religion, but my wife has oft commented, “2018 has really sucked.” She’s right. It’s been a hard year for a variety of family and friends; I will spare you the other sorrow-generating circumstances. In just this year alone, I’ve observed 3 men lose their wives: my father-in-law, a friend from the other side of the world, and now, Jon. I’ve watched and listened to these three men steward their wives, in varying measures, in the path of this life into the next. They are nothing if not heroic. They would demur at this point, but I will stick with my judgement.
And, for them, as is true for each of us, grief has a way of surprising us, of sneaking up, unveiling our memories, assisting us in that imperfect recall of life together. The loneliness that follows is the worst: but, I would not want my memory erased or lost.
I’ve noticed that grief can serve as the great reset button in our lives, and this is true for the three men. What I mean by “reset” is that who is important, and thus, complaining about them or anyone else, for that matter, gets resolved in a way that, first of all, recovers their humanity. To cavil, to practice the unnecessary pettiness, erodes the one being picky and the person in focus. Grief has a unique power to illuminate this characteristic and to redirect it into the constructive and right questioning of matters that lead into life.
My sense is that these men are on a vocation of grief; it is a calling that demonstrates the heart-rending power of grief to transform us, and collaborate with Jesus in ways that make us more human, and ready for a eternal-kind of life.