Chronic Sorrow

April 26, 2006

Chronic Sorrow Book.jpgI came back from Susan Roos’ workshop Saturday with an increased sensitivity to “chronic sorrow.” I think I already understood a lot about grieving the loss of someone through death or even the mourning of a dead marriage that has ended in divorce. But this is something different. What about the loss of hopes and dreams that have been spoiled by the onset of some disease like polio or Altzheimers? What about the loss of identity impacted by a debilitating injury? What about parenting an autistic child? You can’t simply readjust to a missing person. “The loss is ongoing since the loss continues to be present” says Dr. Roos. “The loss is a living loss.” I think this area of focus forces us to get past the superficial aspects of what life is about (beyond what we call “normal”) and look at the deeper issues of meaning and purpose and dignity. I am personally challenged by the need for awareness and the importance of maintaining compassion for the unique struggles these people are having. I am also encouraged by the words of Jesus, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Dr. Roos was presented by The Dallas Society of Psychoanalytic Psychology, a professional organization which I plan to join and for which she will be the next president.

Dr. Roos was kind enough to send me two lists of recommended reading on the topic of chronic sorrow which I am including here. I think that the reading of any of these books will result in our increased sensitivity and compassion for people needing to process the loss of their dreams and integrating new personal realities. Here are the books:

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Resurrection Excitement!

April 16, 2006

caravaggio_incredulity-500px.jpg

Having grieved the Passion of Christ (two posts ago), his sufferings, and then having identified with the death of Christ (last post), this Resurrection Day seems brilliantly exciting. Death isn’t the end of life. Jesus provided the ultimate demonstration that He is indeed God. History is truly “His story.” And now, I am part of that story because I participate in “the Gospel.” Our Sunday School teacher recently reminded us that the Gospel is essentially that Christ died, He was buried, He was raised on the third day, and that He appeared to witnesses (I Corinthians 15:3-8). He went on to observe that Christ’s burial was proof that He had died and that His appearance was proof that He had risen from the dead. I’m imagining how stunning it must have been to see Jesus first hand in His resurrection body. Caravaggio comes through again with his depiction of Jesus giving evidence of His authenticity in The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (circa 1602). It makes me wonder what I would have done if I had been in that room of apostles. I think I would not have been as doubting as “Doubting Thomas” but I do not think I would have been as courageous as Thomas. His verbal response, though, would be my response, “My Lord and my God!” I am deeply encouraged by the words of Jesus to both Thomas and me, “Because you have seen me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:29) What transforming power results from simply believing and surrendering to Him, thus “having life in His name.”


I Died with Christ!

April 16, 2006

cvggo_entom.jpgThis morning, I woke up thinking about how Christ went to the cross because God’s justice had to be satisfied by the penalty for sin (previous post). This evening, I am pondering how I have become unified with Christ in his death in a mystical way. Caravaggio‘s painting of the Entombment of Christ (circa 1602) helps me visualize Paul’s explanation of this in the sixth chapter of Romans. In particular, “. . . if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” and “if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live witih Him.” Carrying these thoughts into the painting, I notice that I am standing in the grave, receiving Christ who died. We are coming together in death so that tomorrow we can go forward in life. “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow,” echoes the Gaither praise hymn. I like to ponder Caravaggio’s painting because I keep noticing new things. The arms and hands seem to tell a story in themselves. Mary Cleophas lifts her hands upward to heaven while Christ’s hand points downward to the grave. Interestingly, the grave is usually thought of as the dead end of life. But Christ knocked the other end out of it and made it a passageway to heaven. The end of one form of life becomes the beginning of another form. So much for the philosophy “when you die, that’s it.” The hands seem to form a counter-clockwise arc encircling the top and left sides of the ensemble ending with the hand of Christ himself. When I think of “the hand of God” I think of creation, guidance, punishment, and even control (He’s got the whole world in His hands). But here, His hand points to his next stop along the trip home to glory. At the same time, another hand feels the open wound in his side. Without knowing what will come next, these people cluster together in “the now” with a spirit of somber reverence, trusting that whatever comes next will be fine if it is to be with Him. In life, in death, in resurrection, and in glory, my desire is to be with Him.


Deeper Emotions about Christ’s Suffering

April 15, 2006

Montanez The Merciful Christ1.jpgMany people give their attention to the Passion of Christ this time of the year.  But I had an unusually deep emotional reaction to the sufferings of Christ on the cross this year. We went to a Maundy Thursday service at church two days ago and we sang a hymn that still lingers. One line was “it was my sin that held Him there, until it was accomplished.” I began to think about how awful it would feel if, because of my negligence, an innocent person died. But my sin is so much more than negligence. Then, how terrible I would feel if, because of my self-centeredness, an innocent person died. But my sin is so much more than self-centeredness. Then again, how ashamed I would feel if, because of my insensitivity to important things, an innocent person died. But my sin is so much more than insensitivity. It made me want to cry out, “No, don’t go to the cross. You don’t deserve it. You’re innocent. I’m the guilty one.” To know about the substitutionary atonement from an intellectual point of view is exciting. To experience it (Him instead of me) is humbling. So after nearly 40 years of trusting in Christ for my salvation and following Him, I understand just a little more of what it’s about. It’s hard to comprehend the depth and darkness of sin against the height and brilliance of God’s holiness. The enormity of His sacrifice for my benefit is overwhelming. The disciples must have really been despondent this time of the week. Praise God for Sunday. He is risen. Hallelujah. He will come again. Amen

The figure of Christ Crucified in Cristo de la Clemencia as sculpted by Juan Martinez Montanes in 1603 and is done in wood, gessoed, polychromed and gilded. It’s one of my favorites.