Saturday, June 11, 2016

Today We See Jesus

Today we say goodbye.

It's weird. Why does a ceremony seem to hang over our heads as if that's the thing that's going to bring closure? Why does it feel so important? so reverent? so necessary? Why does Ecclesiastes 7:2 say, "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart."?

Burying people dates back to the days of Abraham in the Bible when Abraham lovingly bought the first piece of the land God promised to him and his descendants to bury is beloved Sarah.  He buried her in a cave in the side of a mountain, and laid her to rest.  God records many a burial in the Bible, so it must be important.  He must know that it gives us something we need.

So as much as this past week has felt like the calm before the storm for me, as much as crawling out of bed this morning felt like a weight around my body and mind, I know today is needed.

It is good to mourn AND celebrate with the body of Christ.  Other believers.  Other people who loved Xander. It's kinda like the red blood cells of the body of Christ all merging together to cover the wound, clot together, stop the bleeding, and heal the wound.  Of course this started a week ago with text messages, Facebook pictures and condolences, hugs, prayers, and shared tears.  Today's services are kinda like taking the band-aid off, letting the wound breath and begin to harden, so healing can continue underneath the scab, and movement--albeit however stiff--can continue without pain.

And that's what will happen today.  We will all get to breathe not just the air of shared sorrow, but more importantly the air of shared joy.  Xander's joy.  We will celebrate his life together.  His sweet, joy-filled days here on earth.  And we will sing with tears in our eyes knowing that he is experiencing a joy we can only hope to try and understand, but never fully will. All the joys of this life we wonder he's missing out on PALE in comparison to where he is today and what he's enjoying. And there's not one suffering we endure in this lifetime that will ever touch him now.

And when the fresh air of that realization washes over us, the body of Christ, we will feel the weight lift, the wound uncovered.  We will feel a peace as we come together firm to support each other. Underneath in each of our hearts, the wound will still be tender, but healing will continue in time. But for today, as one unit breathing fresh air of a new life in God's Home, realizing that in Christ this is NOT the last time we will see him, praising our God for being good and claiming the truth that He will do right by His people.  Together, we will begin to move forward from this day.

And because we clot together, when we move forward it will be with less pain.  A little stiff maybe. A little tender underneath, but not as painful as the hole ripped open a week ago today.  No.  After today, Jesus will bind us all together in one hope, one joy, and one peace.  Unity in Christ will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and we will have each other to remind each other that He holds us close that He is our Strength, our Help, our Refuge.

And when we lay Xander in the ground, we will be continuing the process of letting him go. Ceremonies are necessary to help us remember, to help us move on.  How many piles of stones marked significant blessings and words from God in the Old Testament?  How many ceremonies were meticulously described in the books of Moses to help people remember and continue their lives in covenant and celebration?

Today will be a good day.  As much as we may dread all the emotion we are about to experience one more time, today will be a good day.  We will see Jesus in Xander's life.  We will see Jesus in each other.  We will see Jesus in the music.  We will see Jesus in his remembrance.  We will see Jesus in the unity of our love for one another.

Today will be a good day people!  Look around and don't miss it!  Camp out and stay and watch! Today WE WILL SEE JESUS!  If you're looking, even through bleary eyes and weary souls, you will see Him.

And today will be a good day.

post signature

Monday, June 6, 2016

What It Looks Like to Process

It's been two days since his passing.
At this point, three years ago, in a similar situation, I was in a better place. I wrote words that I think I need to read again in about another week or so. If you're not angry still today, I'd recommend clicking on that link instead of reading this post.

Because after 48 hours of crying and inwardly seething, I woke up this morning still angry. Because this time, this death isn't necessarily closer to my heart (because it's equally close to my heart), but it is closer to my day to day life. My friend won't stop being my friend and part of my life because she lost her son.

But after venting with my mother this morning on the phone, she gently called a spade a spade. "Jennifer, is 48 hours enough pain? Do you need another 24? Aren't you glad God gives us that choice? that He doesn't demand us go to Him? Be obedient. Go sit down with God and let the healing begin." She said this in the most gently, most loving way possible. She wasn't giving advice or answers, she was meeting me right in the hard moment where I was treading water. She threw me a life preserver.

So, I went and sat down with God. I journal often. That's how God and I talk. I actually keep a journal written directly to my children, and I don't share excerpts from it often, but if my thought process can help anyone else drowning right now, then Jesus take the glory....


I'm so angry. I'm so angry for my friend. (I then proceed to list a long list of offenses on her behalf that she probably doesn't need to read right now.
I'm also selfishly, wrongly angry for myself. (I then list a long list of personal things that God and I need to hash out. Yes, I admit to the selfishness of this.

I'm angry at God--for all of this. I'm angry and silently, inwardly seething between clenched teeth, shaking metaphorical fists at God, borderline blasphemous in my thoughts and emotions, knowing the whole time that He sees and knows my heart, so I might as well be saying it all out loud. So here I am writing, because that's how I say all the things I think. I'm angry because I know all (ok, lots of) the truths of the Bible. I know God has His reasons. I know God is good. I know God was with my friend's son and is with him now and will continue to be with his family.

And therein is where the rubber meats the road and the inner war rages because I know God wants me to be right here, obediently coming to Him with my heart and my thoughts and all my feelings, but I. Don't. Want. To.

I want to sit in a corner and refuse to let Him touch me. I'm the strong-willed child or rebellious teen who thinks depriving God of my obedience will somehow hurt Him like He's hurt me. But there's no truth in that statement.

My anger, my desire to make God hurt, the idea that I can even hurt God--those are all wrong, sinful (borderline ridiculous) thoughts. It's ok to feel them, to have them, but eventually you have to call them what they are or you risk living in the middle of a lie to yourself. And as with all sin, I'm only choosing to hurt myself.

The idea that God allowed my friend's son to die to hurt me or even her, specifically, on purpose, is also absurd. I hope. To be brutally honest, I do believe that God does not intend to cause us pain, but I am also aware that because of a sinful and broken world full of pain, when God makes decisions for our lives, sometimes the only natural outcome will be pain.

Am I saying God killed her son? No. Not necessarily, but I do believe it didn't just happen without His knowledge. So that leaves me in a very uncomfortable gray space, and the answer in gray space always comes down to two paths--faith in God or disbelief in God.

God is not crystal clear to us. I don't think I ever want Him to be because then wouldn't He cease to be God? If I understood everything the way He does, wouldn't I be His equal, and therefore also bear the responsibility of the world and all its issues on my shoulders also? I definitely don't want that.

So if I'm okay with God being bigger and greater and mightier and more mysterious than me (which is good, because He is) then by default, I have to come to terms with not understanding how and why He chooses to work inside my life and the lives of those around me.

I have to choose faith or disbelief.

And when I choose faith, this rebellious child must also choose obedience. They kinda walk hand in hand. I must take the hand of my heavenly Father offering me His embrace and Presence and Comfort. I have to stop licking my own wounds and allow Jesus to be the Surgeon, the Painkiller, and the Bandage to my soul--all in one.

And I'm tired of crying and weeping. And part of me still doesn't want to collapse in His arms, giving Him the satisfaction of loving me, but then the truth is He's going to love me anyways, and really, loving Him is what fuels my life at this point, so without throwing an entire lifetime of experiences and relationship proofs out the window by choosing disbelief, I find I have to choose Jesus. Despite my rebellious anger, He is what my heart longs for. He is peace; therefore, He is where I will find my peace.

"Lord, forgive me for raging against You, for silently cursing how You choose to act in my life and the lives of others. Forgive me, Father, for wanting to hurt You, when all you desire is for me to draw near to You so You can minister to me. Father, forgive me for my anger, but thank you You allow me the choice to feel it and express it. Thank you that You are a Safe Harbor of understanding and grace and comfort. 

Lord, may Your Presence be tangible to my friend's family right now. And if they want to punch You too, I'm grateful You wrestle with us Lord. I'm also grateful You always win, but the freedom to process through to that conclusion as You wrestle with us is a gift. I love that you're never a spectator in our lives. I love you, Lord. Love on my friends for me."


And there it is. In writing, a journey from anger to acceptance. I'm no fool. Small parts of me, I think, will still feel angry in moments. This is a heart-work in process, an on-going process. I have no idea where my friend is on this journey right now, and I do not expect everyone who reads this to process in the same way or in the same amount of time. This is only the beginning. Everything changes as each day passes. And Lord knows I'm going to stand by her side and cry and rage and sit silently for as many days, weeks, months, years as it takes. 

But her journey is not mine, and I would be foolish to overlap our two in any way. Hers is much more difficult.

In this moment, right now, I feel calm and tired and at peace for the first time in 48 hours. Her son is still gone. There are still tears to be shed. Life will be altered and forever changed in a new trajectory now, but maybe now, I can focus on truly loving her with God's love and stop imposing my self-righteous love on her. "Lord help, me."

post signature

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Be the Life Preserver

Three years ago, I penned these words about a sister-daughter-friend.

Yesterday, my dearest friend lost her son. Her eight-year-old son. My eight-year-old daughter's friend. My son's buddy and playmate. And it's been three years since I felt this kind of grief. Three years since I've wept this hard for this long to the point where I'm this numb once again.

And this time it's different because I weep for my friend, my closest friend, the friend who's family I prayed so specifically for and who has taken us under their wing as our closest family here in California. I love her children like my own. I even had the thought yesterday that I would have gladly given my own life to spare her this pain. This pain.

This pain that today, for me, is fueled by a dangerous underbelly of anger. This anger is new. I've not weathered this emotion like this before. Anger on behalf of my friend who is one of the best mothers I know. Who's heart is so big and who teachers her sons to have big hearts as well. Anger because the loss of a child is senseless and cruel. Anger at God because we will never know why this side of heaven. It's a seething, torturous anger that doesn't let me sleep.

It's an anger that is taking up an offense for my friend bound to a hospital bed, recovering from the accident that took her son's life. She can't be on two feet stomping right now, screaming and throwing a tantrum, holding defiant fists up at God, so I want to do it for her.  When she's well, I'm sure she'll be doing it herself, but, I just want to stand in the gap for her, and I can't.

Because her shoes are not mine, and no matter how close I am to the situation, her pain is not mine, no matter how much I wish it was.

And all the right, spiritual things to say are falling flat and hard and clanking like a lead pipe hitting the garage floor. Because truth doesn't feel loving or gracious or helpful when you're in the middle of the storm. 

God sees. God is good. Her son is in a better place. Her son is happier where he is now. God will get you through. God is enough. God is sufficient. God works all things for good. God has a plan. I don't care how true these statements may be, right now, today, the day after her son has been snatched from this earth, those words are alcohol on an open wound. Disagree with me all you like. One day you too might know the truth of this. 

These words are an anchor for our souls, an anchor, not a life-preserver.

There will be a day in the future when these words and truths about God Himself will reveal themselves as the bed rock, the foundation still standing after the storm. They are the anchor that will hold my heart and my friend's heart steadfast in the months and years to come, but to try and hold them now, to try and grasp them in this storm of grief? It's like trying to climb up a rock sea ledge in the middle of a raging storm. Those words of strength and fortitude are the exact same words that scrape you raw, leaving you bruised and bleeding and still looking for help.

The help comes from the soft, tender hands that hold. That reach into the storm and grab onto you. The hands and prayers of people that say, "I'm right here. I love you. Hold onto me." Those hands, those prayers, those are the people who are the life-preservers. Every person lifting a Spirit-led prayer, every long-held hug given, every tear shed among friends, every awkward, long, silent space filled with just each others' presence and no words--those are the life preservers. They are the balm, the salve, the things that keep you afloat in the middle of the wreckage.

We broke the news to our children last night, and while my son wept hard curled into the smallest ball in my lap, my daughter, tear-filled eyes brimming was a life preserver. She led our family of four in prayer, whispering such strong, sweet words for our friends, such deep, caring love for her friend lost. And then we all crawled into bed together, and I sang every song I knew of Jesus and His love, and it wasn't the words, but the act of the music being sung as we all huddled together to just be inside the grief together--that was the life preserver. Being together. Reaching for one another. Holding on to each other.

At church this morning, it was the shared tears, the short conversations and long hugs, the atmosphere of prayer that so many were entreating before the throne room of Almighty God to wrap my friend's family in His presence--those are the life preservers.  

The body of Christ, WE ARE THE LIFE PRESERVERS. So my lesson and my caution, be careful with your words that you are not handing a drowning person an anchor of truth, but that you are handing them yourself, your presence, your tender, loving hand. That's what the body of Christ does for each other because that's what the Holy Spirit does for us before God. We stand in the gap when our friends' have fallen and cannot stand. We breath life over them when they can barely take a breath for themselves. We become the physical hands and feet of Christ, not by doing things for them necessarily, but by visiting them in the deepest, hell-hole of a prison they've found themselves in.

It's time to sacrifice your ears and eyes to the pain of weeping with them. It's time to sacrifice your hands to the hurt and uncomfortableness of holding their tired hands and hugging their wracked bodies. It's time to get your knees dirty in prayer and petition for however the Spirit leads. If you want to be a life preserver and not an anchor, you have to be willing to get your life dirty and dive into the rough, hard, deep waters of pain along with them.

God's Word is the anchor. When the storm calms, there will be time and place and space for rebuilding on that foundation. Today, the day after the tragedy, the storm rages.

Be the life preserver. You hold onto God, so someone else can hold onto you.

post signature