Thursday, February 23, 2017

Grieving Like Martha?

Let me interrupt here the topic on how sometimes Jesus seems to stay outside of our periphery for a minute and let’s take a look at Martha again.

Do you remember how she ran to Jesus as soon as she heard He was outside of their town while Mary, on the contrary, stayed home…potentially drowning in her own sorrow and grief? Well, that’s one interesting study on contrast, if I’ve ever seen one.

Mary hangs out with the mourners at home, but our friend Martha…not so much. There is no evidence of Martha wallowing in sadness at the death of her brother and protector. There is no indication of Martha being still at this time of grief. On the contrary, she sprinted out of the house the second she heard Jesus was at the outskirts of town. This action led Martha to the ultimate comfort of Christ’s presence and words as well as to the gift of receiving one of the most important revelations in Scripture. But even after sharing such intimacy with Jesus, we don’t see Martha going somewhere quiet to ponder. Sooner than she got done having such a spectacular moment with Christ, she took off again to get her sister. I mean, really, you can say what you want about Martha, but the girl is a mover and a shaker…if you don’t believe me, ask Mary!

She can´t stop! Much like when faced by a crowd of hungry visitors coming to her house, Martha deals with the stuff of life through action. It is not a big surprise, therefore, that she deals with grief in the same way. I can only assume that action helps her cope as it gets her mind off of things a bit. Even though she is busy going from one place to another, at the risk of distraction, I cannot help but to wonder if the motion gives her a time to process what has just happened, and a chance to get in touch with her emotions even if at a non-emotional level...just for now, at least.

Grieving is one of the hardest things we would ever do in this life, and everyone does it differently. Some, like Mary, go through the more immediate route of confronting their emotions right away as they sit in the stillness of their pain and sorrow. Others, like Martha, choose to postpone the emotional charge of grieving by busying themselves and feeling productive by avoiding… Either way, however, facing one’s emotions is the only way that will eventually lead us to a bearable level of healing.

I remember when my Dad passed away over 4 years ago, in Panama. At that time, action was my friend. Dan and I had to get on a plane just hours after we heard the news, which meant figuring out what to do with our kids, getting tickets, finding money to get tickets, packing a few bags, getting to the airport and so on in a matter of minutes. The trek from our front door to the doorsteps of the home of my youth was a whirlwind. And, once that beloved blue door opened in front of us, there was nothing but more actions that needed to be done.

It was absolutely draining. It was a completely different experience from when my Mother passed away many years earlier. My Dad was still there. He took care of everything. So, I did, literally, nothing but grieve from the distance, since I could not be there for the funeral. When the last of your parents is gone, however, life suddenly hits you on the face with the added bonus of having to deal with decisions about what to do with the material remainings of a life that no longer exists.

My sister and I are both Martha´s, therefore, we pushed through and got everything done in record time. By the end of the week I was exhausted. It felt as if I’ve just blinked, and we were landing back at home. Through the following months, grief would fill my thoughts at odd moments as the realization of my Dad´s passing would feel unbearable. It has taken me years to be able to think about him not being here anymore without experiencing that sinking feeling I used to feel. Sometimes I think that, consciously or unconsciously, I made myself so busy back then, after his death, that I did not give myself time to contemplate and just be sad. So, the sadness accumulated in my heart until it had nowhere else to go but out, in often ridiculous ways, but out indeed, until the gallons of sorrow finally emptied out, and I was able to replace them with the fond memories of the man who was my pillar on Earth and with the joy of a quiet sense of peace.

What I’m trying to say is that regardless of their outward appearance, the Marthas of this world are truly made out of mush in the inside. The action-figure, visible image of women like Martha often signal a cover that tries to hide a person filled with the same emotions and sense of spirituality as those who are more open about them…the difference is only in the way they get in touch with them, and express them.

In the end, whether we do it like Martha or like Mary, the bottom line is not to skip the process, because it will catch up with us one day in unexpected ways if we don´t allow ourselves to grieve.

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