A loved one dies, and so many blocks come crashing down. Plans crash. Dreams crash. A future comes to an end. The pain of our losses is shattering; our broken hearts don’t quite know how to mend. On our walk of faith, our spiritual journey, it’s precisely amidst the shambles that God can work most powerfully.
Many years ago, I worked with a seven-year-old boy in therapy. He had difficulties with obsessive compulsive disorder, particularly in terms of the development of rituals surrounding the events of any given day. This had worsened after his father died of a heart attack, and the boy’s rituals were disrupting school and family life.
Recently I was remembering a particular session that occurred after we’d been seeing each other for quite some time. He had pulled out a bin of wooden blocks and was challenging himself to build tall, intricate structures, which inevitably tumbled down. We chatted casually about Power Rangers, while his frustration and tension continued to grow. Finally, he could take no more. A building crashed to the floor, and tension gave way to anger and then to tears. He fell to his knees, put his head in his hands and sobbed. “Miss Annie, my plans never work out! My plans never work out!”
Time and time again, I have heard similar words spoken in my office in my roles as bereavement counselor and spiritual director. “Things weren’t supposed to go this way.” “This isn’t what we’d planned.” “He was too young to die.” “We had just bought our tickets to Paris!” A loved one dies, and so many blocks come crashing down. Plans crash. Dreams crash. A future comes to an end. The pain of our losses is shattering; our broken hearts don’t quite know how to mend.
On our walk of faith, our spiritual journey, it’s precisely amidst the shambles that God can work most powerfully. It’s when we are broken that Christ can put us back together, taking pieces and shards and pressing us into bowls filled with healing, love, mercy, and compassion. How? How? How? We ask this question again and again, not surprisingly. Perhaps we can begin with one moment. For just a moment today, saying, “Here, Lord. Here I am with my broken pieces.” Opening our hands. Exposing our hearts. In the midst of grief and loss, one moment is usually all we have energy for. But it’s also all we have.
My little client began to heal as he spoke to me about his daddy, and through our work in therapy, as little by little he learned to do things without his “plans,” without having to know exactly how a certain event would go. With lots of patience, love, and support from the adults in his life, he learned he could walk into his classroom without touching the door frame three times. He learned nothing terrible would happen if chocolate ice cream dripped on his shirt. He even learned to let me add a block or two to his buildings.
Maybe this is the place to begin with God, by offering just one block, and letting Him place it where He knows it looks best.
Annie is a Bereavement Clinician at Cornerstone of Hope Columbus.