Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3
The past few years I have been mourning many losses. Each one different from the other; each one with its own complications but every last one with a measure of darkness and pain that has left my soul with gaping holes no one can fill. The most recent loss was the loss of my dad in October of 2012. Though we’d been walking through the valley of death with my dad for two years, the pain of losing him has been more challenging than I anticipated.
One of the challenges stems from how my dad lived his life. The truth is my dad caused us great pain while he was here on earth. When he first passed, I felt guilty grieving his loss. I would constantly ask myself “Why grieve someone who did not live a perfect life? Someone who made selfish choices? Someone who struggled being a husband and a dad?”
Then God met me in the darkest part of my grief. He led me to see my dad as a whole man, not the fragmented parts I was holding onto. He helped me see not just the painful parts of my dad’s story but also the good and funny parts of my dad. I remember when my sisters and I first came from Haiti and we could not read English and my dad went out and invested on reading programs so we can be proficient in reading. I also remember the mornings he would show up from working as a cab driver bringing us freshly baked bagels, we would all run to the kitchen knowing he brought our favorite. Whenever I’m home (NJ), I would drive by that bagel shop just to relive those memories.
So God in his grace and mercy has used my dad’s passing to help me see man, all man as whole people, the good, the bad and the ugly. He helped me understand that there is not a man on this side of heaven who is perfect in every way; not his beloved son David or these other biblical patriarchs we highly esteem and whose words we live by.
Just a few weeks ago one of my favorite professors passed away and at his funeral one of his children called him “a good enough father”! What?? Not a great father?? Not the best father?? This is the man we know and love; this is the man who can dissect the scriptures like no other, this is the man when he speaks everyone seems to stop everything and listen and his son simply said “he was a good enough father”. I applauded his words spoken in honesty because I understood from where those words were coming. I understood that God was showing him to look at his father as a whole man, not too highly and not too lowly but as a broken and fallen man who’s had his share of mistakes and imperfections but also the man whom God chose to give him life.
That’s when I fully entered the season of grief; without guilt, without shame. So I grieve not because my dad was a perfect man; I grieve because he was my dad. God chose to give me life through him. I grieve because a part of him is in me.
Grief has caused me to walk slower and look at life through different lenses. I no longer look at life through immortal eyes but as a mortal man whose time here on earth is short. It’s forced me to face my fears and start living with passion and purpose. Grief has caused me to look at love differently; it is no longer something I’m waiting for others to give me; I am now the distributer of love. It has forced me to look at conflict differently, as we attempt to live life in community with others around us, we will hurt them and they will hurt us; it is imperative that we talk to one another and forgive and ask for forgiveness. That’s the only way it’s going to work.
Though grief is a complicated journey, it is a necessary journey. It has the potential to produce our authentic selves. Because of grief, I feel myself becoming more of the person God created me to be. Perhaps that's where the joy in trials come in to play.