Angle of repose

Death is bigger than us.

All of us.

And when we brush up against it, we leave wounded—especially when we lose the ones we love (i.e. friends, family, etc). We leave hurt.

Over two years ago my wife’s uncle died in a hunting accident.  Full of grief and despair, I didn’t remember much from the funeral or the days following.  But looking back on it, I do remember with great clarity the image the pastor gave in the Eulogy, and to this day it still brings me peace.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “angle of repose”?  It’s an architectural term.  It represents the steepest angle possible for a pile of granular material (i.e. sand, gravel, mulch, etc.) to slope without sliding or collapsing in on itself.

That’s Webster’s definition.  Let me say it better.

When objects fall, there’s a moment, an angle, a position that occurs in which the object eventually come to rest—including us.

If you’re hurt by a loved one’s death and feel like you’re falling apart, it’s ok.  Keep falling.  Keep hurting.  Keep crying and keep getting mad.

Because eventually you’ll stop falling; you’ll stop crying; and you’ll realize that life has you and you’re finally at rest.  This is God holding you at the angle of repose.

The worst mistake we Christians make when grieving is trying to resist the urge in attempts to remain strong.  We push back the tears and repress our feelings.  We bottle up our anger and shoulder our discomfort with God and life.

But this is wrong.  It’s better to allow yourself to fall into the arms of the one in which all things rest.  God’s big enough and capable enough to hold you and your pain at the angle of repose.

God wants to care for you, love you and allow you to weep and to despair, to cry and to mourn, because you need to, and it’s ok to do so.

In the months following Uncle Don’s death, this image of an angle brought me solace and I hope it does you too.  God’s angle of repose reminds us all that we’re never falling through or beyond the one who holds all things.

So the best (and eventually inevitable) outcome for our grief is to let go and fall.  For it’s in this fall that we realize we’re safe.  We’re held.  We’re at rest.

Barrett Owen

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About the Author
Barrett Owen is the associate director of admissions at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology and pastor of National Heights Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga. He blogs weekly at Liminality: Exploring the holy, in-between spaces.

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