Friday, February 5, 2010

Life, death, hope.

I know it's been a long time, my dear reader (s?) Whoever you are out there, I guess it doesn't really matter...this is what's on my mind!

Last week I assisted at a funeral, which was done at our church. We were fortunate to be able to reach out to a family who did not have a church home. So our church was full, way more full than it was earlier that morning at worship, with almost no one I knew, and almost no one who regularly attended our church. Which was beautiful.

The funeral was for a man-a father, husband, brother, a man who was obviously loved-who lost his life suddenly because of a heart attack, at a time which people kept referring to as "too early". In so many ways, that is so true-when life is at its fullest, its richest, who expects it to end suddenly? And it makes it that much more difficult to deal with loss when it comes at a time not just unexpected, but when we are given the chance to lament all that should have been.

It isn't easy to witness the pain people feel, knowing that there are children who will grow up the rest of their life without that father there to guide them, coach them, love them. It's extremely difficult to see a community of people in mourning over the loss of life, because this man touched their lives in one way or another.

For me, this was just an intense time. The questions I heard all around me, about this man's loss of earthly life, were the same questions people were asking about Haiti. And so many times, these questions leave those of us who are left to ponder them asking what we can do, to support the family, to show love to the unloved, to provide for those who are in such great need.

When I came home last Sunday night, this funeral still on my mind, I watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. That darn show is like my guilty pleasure-I have to watch it without Jon because he hates how ridiculously emotional they make people get and the ridiculous things they do to homes. I just love it. I love feeling excitement along with these people, I get so caught up in their stories. This family was struggling with a mother and wife whose cancer was at the point that it's not curable. She's going through chemo but knows the likely end. Jewel came along to help out this week, and at the end sang her song, "Hands" for the family. And that song spoke volumes to me about what I've experienced lately, from the devastation in Haiti, to the mourning I witnessed earlier that day. Here's the lyrics (I'm deleting some repetitiveness):

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we're all OK
And not to worry 'cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won't be made useless
I won't be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
[My hands are small, I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken]
Poverty stole your golden shoes
It didn't steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn't ever after
We'll fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what's right
'Cause where there's a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing
In the end only kindness matters
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
We are never broken
We are God's eyes
God's hands
God's mind
We are God's eyes
God's hands
God's heart
We are God's eyes
God's hands
God's eyes
We are God's hands
We are God's hands

I think in the end, it takes this kind of attitude to see beauty in despair, to see resurrection and new life in death. Earlier the previous week I was at a memorial service for one of our church members who passed away from Alzheimer's- a much different setting. The pastor who preached ended on a wonderful note, and I'll try to sum it up, but I know I don't do his words justice.

Sometimes in these times of sadness at the loss of life, we feel really far from God's grace and God's love. We feel like we're in hiding or something, being so far from God. But God has a way of hiding away amazing things. God hides huge oak trees in tiny acorns. God hides amazing women in little girls. And God hides eternal life in death.

I think when we ask ourselves about devastation and loss, we ask the wrong questions. Or, we ask the right questions but assume the wrong answers. While there is absolutely nothing good about the loss of life from the earthquake, it has been amazing to see the outpouring of support coming from so many different types of people. While there is absolutely nothing easy about the loss of a good man, it was incredible to see the support his community offered to one another and to his family who is left on earth.

I guess in the end, I am okay with these things. Yes, I cry over them, I mourn loss, I scream sometimes at how unfair this world seems. But in the end, I have to look around and realize that if I am not God's eyes, hands, heart, mind, and if others around me aren't willing to be the same, then we're forgetting a great promise that was given to us. God's kingdom is coming. We see glimpses of it all around us, but we know it's not yet fulfilled until all this hurt and suffering is gone. We have a small understanding of it now, but we can't even imagine how glorious it will be to experience when not one of our brothers and sisters in Christ has to worry about finding food, water, or shelter, or what it will be like always to rejoice in the glory of eternal life, rather than worrying about the finality of this life on this physical earth.

In these moments, my faith is akin to hope. It is fully aligned with the meaning of hope. My faith, in these times, is found in the hope that God will remain true to the promises made to God's people, that the kingdom of God will be realized on earth as it is in heaven. "Here and now, dear friends, we are God's children. What we shall be has not yet been revealed; but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Those who have this hope purify themselves as Christ is pure."

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