June 1, 2003
Seventh Sunday of Easter or Ascension Sunday

LECTIONARY READINGS
from the Revised Common Lectionary

Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47 or Psalm 93
Ephesians 1:15-23
Luke 24:44-53


“How Going To Pieces Can Hold You Together”
Psalm 30


Growing up in the North woods of Ontario had many advantages and one of my favorites was being able to go for miles out into the bush to camp for weekends.

One of my favorite places was Bear Creek.  It was an utterly beautiful place with an old cabin by a creek where fish were plentiful and the partridges would almost walk up to you and ask to be put into a stewing pot!

One Friday night, about five of us started out for Bear Creek.  We were going to spend the entire weekend and take absolutely nothing along except our fishing and hunting gear.  “Just like the old time pioneers,” we thought!

We set up camp, caught our dinner of fish, sat by a campfire and told a various assortment of adolescent stories and later went into our cabin to sleep.

T’was about three in the morning when we all awoke with a start!  There was grunting and growling and loud stamping in the living room…just outside our bedroom door.  “My God, it’s a bear!” my friend Jimmy Turner cried!

“Shhh”  We whispered.  We listened as the growling and stomping grew quiet…then loud again.  The steps seemed to be coming closer to our door.  I sat in terror holding my three inch knife.

Jimmy held his 22 single shot tightly.  “Don’t use that,” Jack Scott whispered in desperation!

“Why not,” countered Jim?

“Because, it just makes them mad!”

We listened…we did not breathe for what seemed like hours.  “Are you afraid?”  I asked Jimmy.  “No,” he said.  And so likewise all affirmed that they were not afraid of this bear that was about to break down the door to our bedroom and eat us all up!

Then suddenly the door came crashing open with a loud growling sound followed by a voice…

            “Surprise…surprise!”

It was our friend Russell who told us he could not go with us this weekend…but he simply delayed his arrival so that he could frighten us…Now Russell almost got stabbed and shot, but he had great fun!

We were all fully awake by now, so we went back out to the campfire and all said that we had not been frightened by the whole experience.

***

That was my introduction to the idea that I must be very different from other people, because I was personally scared to death and inside I was trembling and outside shaking and I wanted to cry at the top of my lungs…”MOMMY!”

But here were all my friends…about to be eaten up by a wild Canadian Black Bear…yet, none of them afraid!

So, I determined…you just hold your feelings inside of yourself when your world seems to be coming apart!

ALL OF US…have times when it seems like our world is coming apart!  No human being escapes the experience of grief and pain and the feeling of coming apart.  That’s at least a part of the reason for the phrases that you hear every day:

“I’m coming unglued…falling apart…cracking up…coming apart at the seams!”

In her book “Up From Grief  Bernadine Kreis describes the experience of her personal grief…but it relates to almost any time that we are simply “wiped out” by personal trial:

“Your body is weary, your emotions raw.  Your heartache is a real physical ache and you are sure your life is destroyed.  Your emotions are a mixture of childish anger that this should happen to you and a mature awareness that the one you loved is gone.  You feel trapped, betrayed and frightened.  You feel guilt, anger, self-pity, and you long to share all these contradictory feelings with someone who understands, but you are afraid.  You wonder if you are going insane because you do not know if anyone else has ever felt as you feel.

When your world is falling apart, you are quite sure that there will never be any peace for you again and you wonder if it’s all worth it!  And you struggle to keep from going to pieces and that struggle by itself is all you can manage as you simply try to get through the hours.

Now please note that the pain and anguish…the tears and grief of coming apart is positive it is a fundamental part of the healing process!

Hope is inherent in the crisis!  That’s called growth and healing.  Things come apart and you struggle to put them back together again in a new and more meaningful way.

When things comes apart and you feel like screaming and kicking and crying…do it!  You will be okay…the whole process of going to pieces will finally work to hold you together!

Now believe it or not…this is a fundamental truth in our faith!  You will find that the biblical writers are very honest about their feelings with God.

In the sixth Psalm, the writer says:  “My soul is in anguish…how long O Lord…How long?…I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears…My eyes grow weak with sorrow…”

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus looks at the black clouds that surround him…peers into the crisis that awaits and cries out in agony to God asking if there is not some other way that this can be accomplished.

I have found it to be tremendous therapy when I am in pain or when I am going through difficult times, to read the Psalms…slowly and reflecting on my own feelings as I read.

I’ve recommended that to others and at first they are startled by the powerful feelings that are in the Psalms…there is anger when the Psalmist is asking God to crush enemies and foes…there is impatience, pain, tears, and always after the storm…an affirmation of the healing power of God…going to pieces seems to hold the psalmist together as he says in Psalm 30:5  “Weeping my tarry for the night, but joy cometh with the morning.

After the darkness…the dawn.  After the pain…the joy.  After the coming apart…the putting back together.  After the valley of the shadow of death…the light of resurrection!

Here are some keys that I have found to be powerful healing forces!

I.       TRUST GOD AND YOU WILL BE HELD TOGETHER!

You do not have to struggle and pressure yourself to hold yourself together!  You make a firm and solid commitment of your life to Jesus Christ and you ask him to be the power that will hold you together and you will be held together!

You let go and he will hold on!  You go to pieces and he will put back together.  Every tear offered to him becomes a healing prayer!  You give your heart and soul and your aching grief to him because he says…”I came and I died for those tears!”  “Come unto me and I will give you rest.”

II.       DO NOT BE IN A HURRY TO RUSH THE HEALING PROCESS!

One of the greatest errors we make when we are in the midst of pain and grief is being in too great a hurry to have the feelings disappear.  We try to shortcut the healing process by denying the depth of our pain.

Others are very willing to help us in this destructive shortcutting…How many times have you been told or said to someone else…”Oh come on now snap out of it!”  Or how many times have you joined in a conspiracy to deny someone the healing power of their tears and pain by saying…”You are just doing great…you are so strong…you hardly show how much you hurt!”

I remember a young man who came to me depressed and discouraged and with chest pain because his world was caving in…he was holding in a ton of pain…he was admitted to the coronary care unit of the hospital…but there was no heart trouble…YET!

As I suggested that he let go of some of his pain, he finally began to weep and to shake and tremble.  After about five minutes…he wiped his eyes and took a deep breath and said; “Well…that’s over with!”

Though the struggle may be difficult, do not shortcut the pain because it will in the long run stay within your life to get dealt with.

III.      DO NOT BE SURPRISED BY FRESH WOUNDING OR RECURRENCE OF OLD PAIN!

After we have put some distance between the pain and grief of some difficult experience, we can still have times when something can tear at an old wound and the pain is as fresh as when we first experienced it!

You go through hell and you get things pretty well patched up and you get on with your life and suddenly something happens to bring it all back and you wonder…”My God, am I never going to get over this!

A week ago last Friday, our oldest son John gave me a hug and said “I Love You” and walked out through the back woods to catch a bus to go off to the Army.  (Now we’re really glad for him, but there was a bit of pain in this experience for me.)

As I watched him through the kitchen window walking through the yard and through the trees, it was as though his whole life flashed before my eyes.  He’s a terrific kid, but a guy who learns everything the hard way…and when kids learn things the hard way, they usually wind up breaking their parent’s hearts in a few places!

 As I watched him, I was surprised by a great large knot that formed in my throat and a pain that worked its way up into my chest and I let go with a ton of pain that I didn’t know still existed within me!

Through the tears, I prayed…”God please watch out for this kid…take care of him…I can’t, but you can…and Lord…I didn’t know I still felt so much pain with him…give me some of your grace so that I can heal up!”

Don’t be surprised by pain that shows up with old hurts…it’s natural and it’s healthy growth!

IV.     USE A TIME OF COMING APART OF RE-VISION YOUR LIFE!

When things pile up for you and when the pressure dictates a time of coming unglued…use the experience to re-vision your life and your priorities and what you really want out of your living.

There was a young man…we’ll call him Jim, whose father was a college president and whose mother was a novelist…it was a high powered, super achieving family.

Jim went to college, finally earned a Ph.D. and became a teacher…though he was talented, he lacked his parent’s competitive drive and after a time became very discontented and finally had a nervous breakdown…(which, I believe, by the way is a very positive inner drive of the person affected!)

Jim told his father after beginning to put the pieces together…”Dad, you and I don’t have the same goals, I don’t want to do this for another twenty or thirty years…I don’t want to work for some illusory happiness…I want some of that now…I’m dropping out.”

His father was horrified and began to protest, but Jim stopped him.

“Hold it dad…hear me out.  You and I know that you aren’t all that supremely happy.  You’ve got ulcers, high blood pressure and all kinds of degrees and honors, but I don’t want that.  I want some peace of mind; so I’m going to a small town I’ve picked out and become a cabinet maker…I’ve always loved working with my hands!”

Jim did just that and his father finally came to accept Jim’s decision and would on occasion get away from his own task and do some hunting and fishing and looking at the mountains.

You see…Jim took what could be a devastating life experience and used it to re-vision his life and his goals!

His so called nervous break down was the most healthy and positive thing that had ever happened to him…indeed, it was not weakness at all but strength…under the circumstances, it was the only sane thing he could do!

****

It is a healthy and helpful thing to express our feelings and to allow our lives to come apart for re-visioning.  God has created us that even the most dismal experience can lead to health and vitality!

If we look very closely at the life and ministry of Jesus Christ we finally discover that the pain and the agony of Calvary was real and it was necessary…in that dark and bleak experience it was as though God himself came to walk with us through the “Valley of the Shadow of Death!”

Remember that the Psalmist never said that we would not have to go through that valley…but he did promise that God would be with us…”I will fear no evil for THOU ART WITH ME!”

As we face the joy and the sorrow…

the grief and the happiness…

the wounding and the healing of life in its fullness;

Going to pieces can help to hold us together if we will open our hearts and souls to him who is the power that can heal us and bind up our broken hearts!