A well known pastor and author recently asked her twitter followers “what scene from a movie makes you cry every time you watch it?” Now, for me there are several; but one movie popped to the front of my brain. In the movie Gods and Generals, which chronicles the Civil War from 1861 to just before the battle of Gettysburg, there is a scene when Gen. Stonewall Jackson learns a young girl he befriended has died of scarlet fever. Receiving the news from his staff physician, Jackson walks to the edge of his camp and slumping on a stump in grief he cries a truly guttural cry and sobs uncontrollably. When questioned as to why he is crying now, after not crying for every single man whose death he has ordered, for every friend and cadet he has lost on the field of the battle, the physician answers “no, I think he is crying for them all!
Five years deep as a chaplain; there are deaths where I do the same, I retreat to my chapel and ugly cry for every person I have walked to death. I think the scene in Gods and Generals is a pretty good dramatization of cumulative grief. This experience of loss after loss, sometimes expressed as “when it rains it pours.” That shit can build up, and it needs to be processed. It needs to be ugly cried out of you. It needs to be screamed out of you as “F*ck,f*ck, f*ck” as you blare heavy metal in your Jeep. (Oh, thats what I did on the drive home, after ugly crying in said Jeep.)
There are times were I know I need to let go of my cumulative grief. Today it was the death of a beloved resident of my Nursing community. 2 years ago, I retreated behind a headstone and collapsed in tears after burying my wife’s grandfather. I have learned that I can only bottle those emotions for so long. Next week marks the fifth anniversary of my ordination to ministry and chaplaincy in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Including my CPE training, I have almost 7 years of being with people in the worst moments of their life. I have sat at bedsides of folks with terminal diagnosis’, stood with young couples as I’ve baptized their dying babies. I’ve responded to codes while doctors franticly rush to preserve life, and I have sat with a grieving staff and wife who’s husband has just committed suicide. So, fuck acting dignified. Fuck bubblegum pop religion. Give me a faith where God weeps with me at the foot of the cross.
I recently had a line from Rogue One:A Star Wars movie tattooed on my arm. Jyn Erso, in an attempt to rally support for her cause states: Rebellions are built on hope! Oh, are they. I am reminded of Pauls exhortations to the Romans in chapter 5 that we can boast in our sufferings, because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. That hope is is rooted because God’s love has been poured out in the Holy Spirit.
So for me, every day is a rebellion against despair. Because rebellions are built on Hope!
Romans 5:2-4 And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.