By Molly Haggerty
Nearly 20% of us will experience some kind of anxiety or depression and this statistic was gathered before consideration of living through a worldwide pandemic. Chances are you know someone who is suffering with this invisible disability. How we respond to these shared experiences can mean the difference of shame or acceptance. Jesus invites us into these spaces of living loss by saying:
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29 NIV
Living Loss is someone experiencing a loss of something such as divorce or family members divorcing, the end of a relationship, experiencing anxiety and depression, losing relationships due to identity, being adopted, and any other significant life experience. For my thesis in my Masters program at Luther Seminary, I developed an accompaniment process, calling it “living loss and forming our faith.” Using the principles of grief/loss stages together with our multiple intelligences, people explore each stage of loss through the different ways we learn. This is also steeped in God’s Word to help us take what is difficult to understand and begin a process to walk through the experiences with a God lens and a deeper understanding of our faith narrative. Taking our trauma and, as we explore its deeper meanings in ourselves, turning it into our faith narrative – our God story – makes us unique and able to walk alongside others experiencing living loss.
Jesus is walking with us, yoking us in love and light so that we can understand what it means to be a child of God. We are yoked to each other in the body of Christ as we suffer in our own silences yet are heard by the Holy Spirit. We, as part of God’s church, are invited to be there for each other in our suffering, whether hidden or openly shared, to include each person in our daily life of being church. We have a call to ensure that the words and rituals we use as we gather include space for each person to feel safe, accepted and essential, because this is God’s church for all God’s people. We are called to create ministries of sacred space for those suffering with silent or invisible disabilities and experiences. We follow this call so they can move from shame into the deeper understanding that they are created in God’s image with all parts of us being part of who we are in Christ. Let us examine our hearts, our sacred space, and our faith journey to join all God’s people together as one.
You are the one who created my innermost parts;
you knit me together while I was still in my mother’s womb.
I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart.
Your works are wonderful—I know that very well.
Psalm 139: 13-14 CEB
Pastor Molly Haggerty has served on the ELCA roster as both deacon and pastor. She believes that ALL people are created in the image of God. Molly has an MA from Luther Seminary (Children, Youth and Family) along with an MDiv from United Lutheran Seminary (Gettysburg/Philadelphia campuses). She also completed the ELCA mission development/redevelopment training. Molly has worked in the field serving people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for over thirty years and recently became chair of the Disability Ministries for the LSS Justice Task Force. She also serves on LSS synod council.