When loss and sorrow knock on the door, there is no denying grief or the process of mourning. However, it is natural to recoil from the pain and very human to attempt to flee. Grief is as hot and dry as June in the desert, during a long drought. The body, heart, and soul shrivel with thirst when it ravages. When the tongue cleaves to the roof of the mouth and lips crack due to thirst, the high country calls through remembrances of alpine relief, at an altitude high above the suffering of the dry valley below. It seems logical then to dissociate from sad reality and avoid mourning by escaping to the high country. How easy it is to lose one’s self in meadows carpeted by colorful flowers, watered by the still-melting snow. In a mountain June when summer is just beginning, it can seem as if such a heavenly paradise could last forever. The land itself provides food and water enough to sustain the fanciful runaway seeking avoidance of a painful reality…at least, for a short season. Such cooling relief is found here, high above the scorching desert, enveloped in peaceful, majestic beauty! High granite cliffs, where the precious Columbine bloom, produce a special sense of insular safety, as large dark caves promise shelter from summer mountain rains. The grim reality and sorrowful drought of the desert grow more distant with each passing day and it’s so easy to imagine forever, remaining aloof in this comforting solitude.
Summers are brief in the mountains. Days soon pass into weeks and months, as the dry heat travels upward from the desert valley, making its way to the high peaks. The flowers fade and the green grasses mature, in browns and purple hued grays. Grief and mourning won’t be denied their due process and the sorrow of loss stalks its victims. None are wily enough to successfully hide from mourning or forever escape. The void of loss must be faced or it grows to become a starving black hole that no method of coping can assuage. Its ravaging is sure to devour everything valuable, leaving only the fantasy that keeps it growing. Only, truthful reckoning can satisfy it. The reality avoided is sure to reappear. Like a sudden reflection in a mountain stream that reveals the true state of self; of someone on the run, hiding in the mountains, with tangled hair, worn out clothes, and new wrinkles around glassy, delusional eyes. Cold nights with chilly winds, late summer hail-storms, and the leaves changing color, make it clear that the dark season is coming down fast and hard. Truth is present. Mourning can’t be avoided and facing it here, on the mountain in winter would likely, prove fatal. Hungry, sleepy bears and mountain lions (the rightful residents) will soon be claiming all caves. The desert run-away could easily, end up as prey. It’s time to head back down the mountain, to the valleys and the rivers where human beings live and face the reality that can’t be denied.
Acceptance is the beginning. Grief is the accounting. Mourning brings the tears that cleans and heal. An awful truth can bring overwhelming sadness but mourning releases joy, imprisoned in sorrow. Joy even grows stronger in those who embrace divine truth and endure. The joy of Jesus is buoyancy, when grief with sorrow floods our lives and threatens with drowning pain. In Christ we can face all things, do all things, and endure all things. Through faith, we’re given courage to stand and have no need for escape to the safety of some imagined mountain top. Faith is not a dissociative state but strength to endure life in the valleys and the power to overcome.