God Stuff

Sitting Shiva


There’s an ancient Jewish ritual, dating back to even before the time of Noah called shiva. Shiva is the Hebrew word for seven, and in this context refers to a seven day period of mourning following the death of an immediate family member.

Often this time of mourning is referred to as sitting shiva due to the fact that the mourner customarily sits on low stools or boxes. While it isn’t know exactly where this practice began, Job 2:13 is often cited. In this passage, Job’s friends come to comfort him by sitting on the ground beside him for seven days and nights.

Other customs include covering of mirrors, not shaving or wearing makeup or the burning of a candle. All of these customs are intended to reinforce the fact that this is a special time. A time set aside for the purpose of grieving.

Most of us living in the busy modern world see mourning as a nuisance. It’s something to be done as quickly and as privately as possible. It’s a weakness. It’s a distraction that prevents us from moving forward with our lives.

Shiva says that isn’t true.

To sit shiva is to openly express our grief. Showing sorrow is encouraged.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross divided grief into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. An important and essential point of her theory is that no two people grieve the same way. The order of the stages may change, overlap, or a person might not even experience all five stages at all.

Shiva says that is okay.

If you aren’t Jewish, or even religious, the practice of shiva can be important. Because to sit shiva is to acknowledge that a change has taken place. For many of us, THAT is the true struggle. Change is uncomfortable at best and when thrust upon us against our will it can be almost debilitating.

To sit shiva is to acknowledge that a change has occurred, to grieve it, and then finally to get up, walk outside and move forward to a new reality.

It’s a universal truth, for one thing to begin another must end. For one thing to be born another thing often must die. There is change. To have Spring we must first go through Winter. For a tree to be born, a see must fall to the ground and be swallowed up by the Earth. To enjoy a hamburger a cow must…well you get the idea.

So, as we enter 2016, as one year ends and another begins, and with all due respect to my Jewish friends, I will symbolically sit shiva for the things in my life that must die in order for new life to begin.

Constantly beating myself up
Setting unrealistic expectations
Not believing I’m good enough
Fear of failure
Lack of self-esteem

What is it that you need to sit shiva over in your life?

Maybe it’s your job. You go to work every day, but you dread it. It pays the bills, but it’s making you a nervous wreck. You can’t sleep because you hate waking up.

Maybe it’s your church. You go every Sunday but it’s more out of habit than desire.

Maybe it’s a relationship and it’s just not working. You’ve both tried, but it doesn’t bring life, or peace, or health. And you both know it’s time to let go, but you can’t.

Maybe it’s something that started out very good and there was so much promise, but now you’re only hanging on to what you hoped it would be. Not what it is.

Maybe it’s simply the belief that all the mistakes from your past somehow limit your future.

Now is the time to let…it…go. Do it. Let it die. Grieve for it. And then begin the process of moving on.

My friends, there’s freedom in letting go. Because there is something better, just around the corner, just over the horizon, just waiting for you to drop whatever is holding you back. But you can’t take hold of the new thing until you let the old thing die.

This is the power of shiva.

This is the power of the cross.

This is resurrection.

God says, that old thing that’s holding you back…no more. That pattern of destruction in your life…end it. That person place or thing that isn’t bringing you joy and peace and rest…say goodbye and take hold of the new thing that’s waiting just around the corner.

May 2016 be your best year ever.



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