How long?

Each of us has lost something in this last year, some much more than others. With numerous people infected with Covid-19 and restrictions in many countries, we lost freedom, normalcy, connectedness etc. There is also loss of lives and livelihoods.

Twenty years ago, a devastating event took place that rocked the whole world. Five hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the northern facade of the World Trade Centre’s North Tower. Another five hijackers crashed UA Flight 175 into the South Tower. More than 3000 lost their lives. I was shocked. Approximately a week before the event, I was at Boston’s Logan International Airport (where AA Flight took off), waiting for my AA Flight home after presenting a paper at the Conference by the Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States (LACUS).

How do we manage loss?

A friend, the Vice President of Country Line dance Association left us unexpectedly. For his loved ones, adjusting and grieving will take a long time. How long before some form of normalcy returns? One way of managing is what God has given us permission to do: lament and cry to God as in Psalm 13:1. In our own sometimes incoherent cries or talk to God on the loss, the cracks, brokenness, and pain, we will experience His loving touch of putting mortar on the cracks.

Another way could be making tentative small talk that goes beyond the usual cliches, sharing our hurts, pain, and cracks. We saw this during the recent Olympics where competitors congratulate or comfort each other. It is tough to deal with unrealised dreams and failures. I recalled the many races I had lost before breaking the National Schools 800m record. I was also hurt by comments like ‘you can’t win running barefooted.’ I talked to God and shared my pain with a fellow competitor: too poor to afford shoes for the race. I prayed for rain. It was hot earlier, but it rained during the 800m race. Praise God! Recently, I met a secondary schoolmate and athlete, whom I have been praying for to know the Lord. How long? Sometimes ‘How long?’ can be quite fast as in us (I met PJ Thomas at CGH Eye Clinic) meeting a stranger who joined us for lunch and who prayed to accept Christ after the meal.

It takes effort and humility but in the sharing of common human experiences, we may know more of ourselves and of God and perhaps, manage the loss in some way.  For the loved ones of the 3000 who perished on 11 September 2001, it will possibly take a very long time to manage the pain. For those suffering from physical illness, mental illness, loss of loved ones, loss of friends, etc, much needed comfort and solace may not happen soon. But we can cry out to God, draw strength from Him, rest in Him.

Many of us love the Psalms for often they are uttered cries of pain to God. From the Psalms, God shows us that He knows that our waiting for Him can be tough. He gives us permission to cry out and ask Him, “How long?” God reminds us that waiting is a common experience for His children. While waiting, we are reminded that ‘He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength (Isaiah 40:29).

Dr Vivien Ler