Loss. We are all acquainted with it, and it never feels good, does it? We feel the pain of the loss of a job, health, and financial security, to name a few. As a pastor for nearly forty years, I have had people leave the church, and, regardless of how loving or contentious the relationship might have been, it always hurt my heart to see them go.
But the most painful loss of all is the loss of a friend or a loved one. My first recollection of the painful loss of a family member was when my paternal grandfather, John Andrew Sabol died on the job while working the third shift at Patterson Parchment Paper company on January 27th, 1961. I was 10. The loss of his strong and loving presence in my life was devastating.
Since then I have experienced the loss of all four grandparents, my mom and dad, and aunts and uncles. My little sister, Julia, 12 years my junior, died of cancer at the age of 45. I have also said goodbye to countless friends, church members, mentors, and protégées.
The most recent loss my bride Nancy and I have endured was the passing of our beloved dachshund Duke on New Year’s Eve. Yeah, I know, he was “just a dog,” but for us he was so much more than that. He was the fourth dog we have owned in our nearly 50 years of marriage, but this little guy found a way to bore deeply into our hearts. We are still grieving and adjusting to life without his joyful and playful presence in our lives and home. It really hurts.
Yeah, I am well acquainted with sorrow and grief. But, do you know who else is? Jesus. The Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah 53:3 says that “He [Jesus] was a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief…” When I experience significant loss, He knows! He understands! He is acquainted! That brings me great comfort when I am coping with loss and it creates in me a deep longing to spend time with him.
Many people who experience a significant loss often make a terrible mistake. They isolate. They cocoon. It feels “safer” for them to assume a lifestyle containing no intimate relationships. Why? Because, in their minds, it hurts too much when it is time to say goodbye. Folks, grief is the price we pay for loving, and loving is worth it.
Many of you are familiar with the writings of C.S. Lewis, even if only through the movie adaptations of some of his more well-known works, like The Chronicles of Narnia. As I finish this blog post I wish to share one of Lewis’ quotes from “The Four Loves.” These words impacted me in such a deep way over thirty years ago that I memorized them. I pray his words comfort and challenge you as they have me…
“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
In spite of the many losses I have experienced in my 68 years of life, I am determined to love again – and still! I humbly ask you to join me. Loving life is definitely worth the risk.