Is it okay if I admit to you that I don't really know what to do with the cross? It's there and it's part of the Christian tradition. I've been shaped by it my whole life, but I find a reason to leave the room mentally whenever it comes up. I think a large part of my problem is that I want to engage it with my head, to look at it from a variety of theological viewpoints and find what makes sense to me. I've been trained to do that, and you know, I'm really good at engaging things with my head.
Interestingly, I've come to realize over the past few months that I treat my own grief in exactly the same way. I turn to the models I know from the books I've read to help me as a chaplain and pastoral counselor. I want to theorize about my grief, because if I'm talking about grief, I'm dealing with it, right? Not right. I theorize about it because it's a hell of a lot better than feeling it.
Maybe that's my problem with the cross. Maybe I want to theologize and pontificate about theories of atonement and that kind of thing because to engage it with my heart, to allow myself to feel the story, to let it wash over me, is to leave myself open to the story of our collective grief and sorrow. It is a story that is meant to be felt in the deepest parts of my soul, but to do so is to leave myself open and vulnerable.
It's no secret that the past year has been about grieving. I made the mistake of trying to put it on a time table and assumed if I could get through a list of particular tasks by the first anniversary of my leaving, that I would be ready to move on from grief and get on to the business of living. This is, of course, a ridiculous perspective and anyone with the training I have ought to know better, but I am as human as anyone else. I don't like feeling pain, so I compartmentalize it and externalize it and leave it another room as often as I can because to allow it to be a part of me, to integrate it into the whole of my being is hard work. It's painful.
This week while looking for a Denise Levertov poem, I came across another poem of hers that I'd never seen. It represents very well what I am trying to do with grief, and on this Good Friday morning, what I'm trying to do with the cross....
Talking to Grief
by Denise Levertov
Ah, grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.
I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.
You think I don't know you've been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your collar and tag. You need
the right to ward off intruders,
my house your own
and me your person
my own dog.