Though for some it seems like a thankless task, from time to time most of us sit down to try to reconcile our finances. We balance the checkbook, enter transactions into a bookkeeping program, or look at our account statements to determine whether we will have enough money for our daily expenses or for retirement. Peace of mind is the well-deserved by-product of responsible financial behavior that allows us one day to experience our dreams and long-term goals as reality. We get there through the practiced discipline of reconciliation.
Reconciling ourselves to the death of one we love is one of the steepest and longest hills we climb on our journey through grief. Reconciliation is a continuous process of adjustment and acceptance, with a few stops and setbacks along the way. Reaching an understanding with ourselves about what happened is much more difficult when death is tragic, unexpected, premature, or untimely. When this happens, we’re left with little except the big, taunting “why?”. Reconciling within ourselves the magnitude of this kind of loss may require the perspective and guidance of a professional. And though peace can be neither appropriated nor acquired from a friend or spiritual guide, a compassionate, concerned listener may be able to suggest a path that leads toward personal reconciliation.
When one we love dies we’re forced to shift our focus—first away from the one now lost to us in death, then toward ourselves with introspection and soul-searching, and finally toward an altered, possibly unfamiliar new place in the world. Reconciliation requires new life skills as well as a new mindset. We are forced to expand in ways we may never have thought possible or necessary as we broaden our sightline of life. We weigh the inner urge to reconcile the balance of our life before we can again move forward. As we adapt ourselves to the reality of the present and slowly begin to envision the future, there is no guarantee that reconciliation will be straight-line, as in the practice of accounting. The process of reconciliation can be erratic, perplexing and, at times, frustrating.
The outcome of personal reconciliation is that we emerge from the self-nurture of grief with a greater awareness of humanity, “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12:31 NRSV). We are more mindful, more alert to the needs and suffering of innocent and unsuspecting victims. We respond with heightened compassion rather than dull indifference or insensitivity to racism and bigotry in a world where recurring violence is more the norm than the exception. We are better human beings because of our experience of grief and reconciliation.
Finally, we release the emotions that threaten to enslave us forever—our anger, our fear, our resentment— and we are at once fully reconciled with God. We may need to forgive others, “One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend” (Proverbs 17:9 NRSV). We may need to ask for forgiveness. We may need to forgive ourselves, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone” (Mark 11:25 NRSV). When we work toward complete forgiveness, we have a better view of God, “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness” (Daniel 9:9 NRSV).
The spiritual blessing of reconciliation is alignment. When our will is aligned with God’s will for our life, we experience joy, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NRSV). Reconciliation better allows us to discern where God is leading us in life.
We pray, but also, we must listen, “‘…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’” (Mark 12:30 NRSV). Through spiritual oneness with God we accept God’s plan for our life, which may be rather different from our own, “May he grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your plans” (Psalm 20:4 NRSV). It is sometimes a radical, yet life-altering surprise when we understand that God’s plan for our life may unfold because of the death of one we love. This is the true nature of reconciliation, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18 NRSV).
When our spiritual account with God is balanced—down to the last penny of our soul’s estate—we rejoice in life renewed, restored, and at peace,
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
John 14:27 NRSV