Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Grieving in the Valley of the Shadow of Death

11When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. -Job 2:11-13

I am grieving tonight over the loss of my uncle, whose life was tragically cut short this week when he was gored by his own buffalo. It still just seems so unreal. I mean, just saying the words seems unreal. Who dies in that way--killed by a buffalo? It can't be real. My mom talked to him on the phone yesterday morning here in my kitchen. They were making plans to go on a cruise next year, him and my Aunt and my mom. He was so alive yesterday. How can he be just gone? But it is real.

Strange to me too, how one grief brings up fresh another. It seems my tears for my uncle are mixed with tears for my own dad who passed away two years ago. We all still miss him so terribly much. I wish even now I could call him and just hear his voice one more time. Visit with him again and let him see how much his grandbabies have grown.

And I so dread the funeral. I dread the pain I will see in my Aunt's eyes. They had a great marriage...something uncommon in this day and age, it seems. They loved each other so much. And my Aunt is a person's whose love and joy just bubbles out of her and can't help but affect those around her. But when I see her this time, there will be no bubbles of joy. Only sorrow. And that saddens me beyond belief. And I dread seeing the grief in my cousins' countenance, and those of their children. And I grieve for a baby boy who will not know the wonderful grandfather he had except through stories told. It just seems so unfair.

It feels weird that I typed the verse on my facebook page about it being better to attend funerals than parties. While I still believe it's true, the reality is, no one wants to. But I see it even more clearly now than I did when I typed it. My uncle lived a life of purpose. He lived his life serving Jesus and serving others, and now that he is gone and we look back, that is what marks his time here on earth. And there can be no regrets for a man who lives his life that way.  My oldest son has been crying alot today, also. He told me tonight, "Mom, when I die, I hope people remember me the way they are remembering Uncle know, all the good stuff he did, how he helped people. That's what I want people to say about me." And I couldn't agree more. I feel like right now I could scream at the masses, "What on earth are we making our lives about? YOU blind humans! You fight and hurt each other and waste your time on drivel that will burn up someday! Be like Uncle C! Care about the people around you! Love the sinners in your midst! Spend less time about making money and more time about loving others!"

The world would be a better place if there were more servants and less bosses.

So I will get myself and my husband and our five children in our suburban tomorrow. And we will drive for over 10 hours to sit with my aunt and cousins, just like Job's friends did. Because sometimes that is the most helpful thing we can do. In fact, the book of Job might have went differently if Job's friends had stopped at that act of comfort and kindness. Sometimes our presence and our prayers in the midst of pain are the best comfort we can offer to those we love. Just to be there. I get that. So that is what I will do. It's all I can offer them, and it's not much. But if it eases the pain off their shoulders even a microcosmic, infinitesimally small amount for me to sit beside them quietly in the sackcloth, then it is worth it.

And in the midst of this unimaginable pain, I will have faith. I will choose to believe that God is still good. That he is still in control and sovereign. That his grace is still sufficient. That Jesus understands our suffering because he suffered, and came in human form to know our weaknesses. He was a man of sorrows too. And he is still here. With me. With them. If we make our bed in hell, he is there. Sometimes, for reasons I can't fathom, he allows us to go through the valley of the shadow of death. But he is always there with us. And for those of us who know Christ, the good news is death is ONLY a shadow. "Death where is thy sting?" "For we do not grieve like those who have no hope...." Hallelujah! You know, this moment the pain is real to me. The hurt is not theoretical. But neither is the victory. Jesus's death on the cross was not THEORETICAL suffering. It was not a METAPHORICAL conquering of death. Uncle C is in heaven....a REAL place just like earth. He's there with my daddy and Granny and the others I've loved who went before, and someday we'll be reunited. And in these moments, it is that truth that comforts me most of all. I don't need a THEORETICAL savior in this moment. I need a real one. And so did they.

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