Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Lord takes away

"Human contact and concern, even poorly done, are more redemptive than avoidance."
-author Bruce Parmenter

Things are not right in our corner of the world today. You know things are not right when you have to visit a funeral home to bring comfort to your elderly friends whose one-year-old great grandson drowned in a lake last Saturday. No, things are not right at all.

We reached out, our efforts seeming so feeble, to D. and J. tonight. And it nearly tore me up inside. Truth be told, I've been distracted since we got the news sitting in church Sunday morning. We have prayed several times for their health and well-being, that God would give them grace upon grace to get through this. I've spoken with J. twice on the phone; I say I've spoken, but in truth, I said so little. There were no words. And our prayers seem to stop at the ceiling. We don't know what we are doing; we don't know what to pray, though we have been praying all our lives. This must be what the Scripture means when it says the Spirit prays for us in our weakness when we are beyond being able to express ourselves.

I walked out of the funeral home tonight physically sick. I've been around funeral homes and the deceased practically all of my life, starting as a child with the ministry a pastor's family naturally assumes. These things are not unusual to me. But the site of that little one who looked like he is sleeping lying in a coffin with no earthly dreams for the future just about undid me. Emotionally distraught, I was.

It all seems so senseless. Tonight J., who is 81, told me that this has been the shock of his life. No one was prepared to bury their little blond burst of sunshine. No one could have ever imagined that looking away for a moment would bring such unbearable grief, a loss no young mother should face, such a terrible tragedy.

As we got in the car, I began an internal conversation with my heavenly Father. Lord, this is wrong! What could you possibly be thinking? I know you didn't cause this--it's this broken world. But you and I both know darn well you could have prevented it. And I began to recite to myself the truths that I know, that I keep in my back pocket to pull out when I need them. And, oh, how I needed them.

In the ancient Hebrew tradition, God was a real person, with whom you entered into dialogue and argument. That explains the whole book of Job, in my opinion. If we truly disbelieved, after all, we would not question God. We would not bother with him.

I told myself that God loves little M.--that he created him. I reminded myself that Psalm 139 says he knew all of the days this little one would live before he was even born. I know from the book of Acts that God even knows the places where we live. He knew M.'s address, and his parents and grandparents, all of the ins and outs of the situation that went down last Saturday. I recalled that God is not the author of sin or confusion, and that this event and its subsequent numbing grief was never his intention. That he hates it, in fact. And then I tried to picture Jesus welcoming M. into His presence. It occurred to me that while M. will not live a long, full life on earth, he will live a completely full life in paradise, and then the new heaven and the new earth. That he will never truly die.

And it helped a little.

It helped enough for me to start breathing normally again. And in the grand scheme of things, in the realm of enduring truth, it helps a whole lot, of course. It makes all the difference in the world, our hope of heaven.

My recent reading on grief has given me this little morsel: "In his own time, God responds to suffering. He is not indifferent to our anguish." -Bruce Parmenter

I can't tell you what a relief it is, even as I sit here typing this, to know that God wins in the end. That babies are precious to him, that life--even when it only lasts a year--is a gift, that death means victory, and in pain God's comfort overflows, and hope leads to the eventual end of disappointment. Oh, Abba, thank you for your truth. It is all we have, and it will be enough.

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