God in What is Not Said

One of the (hundreds of thousands of) things I love about my husband is his ability to make me laugh. I am not amused much by puns or wit or foolish antics (no judgement if you are, they just don't hit my funny button), but by dry humor my amusement knows no bounds. The understated kind, the sort you have to take a second and third look sometimes to see if they're really serious. Nate's humor is of this ilk. He takes a long time to know and be known, and then you know it's for real when his dry humor comes out to play. He makes me laugh until I cry. 

The past few weeks we've cried, but laughter has been in short supply. That's okay. We're not the sort to pretend things are fine when they're not. We're not afraid of mourning, being sad. We aren't going to pretend we have jubilant and full hearts when the truth is we've felt emptied of joy and are brimming over with feelings that seem out of our control. There's no shame in that and we feel no shame for it. We repent quickly when we note the swirling feelings have resulted in sin (often, these days), but we're not in some sort of rush to sweep the bad things away and spring clean our sadness from our hearts. Sadness has purpose too. 

Last night, after dinner with our housemates, birthday presents for one opened, a movie picked by the other finished, we all headed to our rooms. Nate and I talked for a while as we often do and a surprising laughter gurgled up from within me. He made me laugh for an hour or more and then again more when we'd turned the lights out and faced away from each other. 

I read a poem by Mary Oliver when we were in the hospital and there's so much of it I've been grateful for these past few weeks. Someone asked me a question recently: "What's your favorite resource for infertility and miscarriage?" My answer was the Psalms, honestly (though there are others of course). The Psalms have been the best comfort to me in the past few years. But poetry too, not of the biblical sort, has comforted too.

Poetry says, like the poet says, what cannot be said in prose or story or didactic non-fiction. Poetry makes space for what cannot be said or what should not. It allows the reader to imprint their own story and understanding, leaving much to the imagination and even more to interpretation. Its purpose is not to force the reader into a well-worn pathway, but to surprise us with inflection and emptiness. What is not said is almost more important than what is. 

Grief is like that, for me at least. God is at work, for me, in what is not said more than what is. He weaves himself into the spaces, the emptiness, the quiet pauses and plots and pieces. He says, "Notice me in this thing or this sight or this void? See me in the ways I preserved and protected and kept?" He is almost an afterthought in many ways. I can look behind me and see, "Oh, that was your sovereignty at work there." 

The best comfort to me in times of grief has been the Psalms, yes, but also poetry and also surprising laughter, filling up my insides, and pouring over. The kind that makes my stomach hurt, the kind that brings tears to my eyes, the kind that makes me stop and notice, for one minute, how all things are held in his hands—even when it feels like ours are limp and lifeless. 

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had his hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel,
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it -
books, bricks, grief -
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled -
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

—Mary Oliver

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