It’s always interesting to see things in a new setting, from a different perspective. If you’ve ever moved or gotten some new furniture, maybe you’ve had the same experience I’ve had recently. Sometimes when we move to a new place – apartment, condo, co-op, townhouse, home – we’re surprised by how a favorite easy chair or comfortable family sofa looks in a different environment. Maybe the walls have been freshly painted and suddenly the old fabric or covering looks a little time-worn. Or maybe you’ve acquired something new and suddenly the rest of the house seems to need an update. Sometimes the effect of refurnishing our personal space - physically and emotionally - looks and feels a little at odds with our surroundings. We scrutinize what’s wrong, what’s missing, what’s needed to balance the old with the new.
Whether we realize it or not, as we grieve, slowly but surely we refurnish our lives – not necessarily with furniture or furnishings, but with new, unimagined emotions and experiences that gradually change us. Grief meets us where we live, in the deepest part of our heart, in the darkest part of our soul. With the death of our loved one, our life is for a while stripped bare – everything we cherish is suddenly challenged, our spirit feels threadbare and exposed. We refurnish our lives as we transform the shabby parts of our grief – fear, guilt, anger, and resentment – into the loveliness of wisdom and the grace of acceptance.
So how do we do the work of refurnishing our lives from the inside out without abandoning everything we hold dear? We repurpose - thoughtfully, carefully, intentionally, prayerfully. We question what is, we pause to assess where we are. And as we do the work of refurnishing, God blesses us with an extra measure of strength and forbearance, “The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27 NIV).
A few months before Leighton got sick, we did some remodeling and redecorating. I selected a warm yellow for the walls – the color “wheat” was popular at the time. We’d had white walls and red walls and blue walls, but I decided that all the walls should be painted this one uniform color. I enjoyed it for a while, but one day about three years ago I realized it was depressing - it reminded me of a sad, chaotic time of illness and death. So I moved the furniture, called the painter, and selected a different color – white, white, white. I was amazed at the positive effect on my spirit. Intuitively I had chosen the color of light – I felt somehow that I had refurnished something deep within myself by making this outward change that suggested hope and joy.
Not unlike this experience, as we grieve we paint over our insecurity, our self-doubt, our second-guessing - we make informed decisions that, over time, restore our spiritual and emotional self-confidence. Our lives are forever altered by the death of one we love. God’s steadfast love guides us through the transformative refurnishing of grief.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Psalm 84:1-2 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the sanctity of your space. Amen.