I've lost a lot of family in my short life. So many that I'm fast running out of relatives. John is in the opposite situation, just starting to lose his relatives. In both cases it means that I have experienced a lot of death, a lot of funerals and a lot of grief.
This last week was no exception, we had the death of a family member and the death of a friend. Another family member and a friend (who is a shirt-tail family member) have received very, very serious medical diagnoses. Another friend has surgery for a serious injury - she already has a life-threatening, progressive illness on top of that.
Death is part of life. If we have contact with other people at all in any way, shape or form, we deal with death.
And it usually ain't very pretty.
I read an article yesterday on "Walking through the shadow of death". It spoke about worshipping God and rejoicing in Him even in the tough times.
Overall the article was very good but there was something that bothered me very much about it.
The author spoke about how she didn't cry - that she 'rejoiced' instead.
I found this very misleading. And disturbing. The wording of the article made it sound like we need to squash our emotions (implied to be inferior because they are human emotions) and replace them with the joy of Jesus. No crying allowed. No sorrowing allowed. No 'what ifs' allowed.
I don't believe for two seconds that God wants us to do that.
I don't believe that God doesn't want us to grieve.
I don't believe that God wants us to squash emotions that we have.
I don't believe that joy is something that needs to replace our 'human' emotions.
Walking through death as much as I have in my short life I have learned something and it is so very valuable to me:
God love us. And He wants to carry us through the valley. He wants us to grieve and cry and use the 'what if's' to change us. To make us aware of our relationships with others and build them into the strongest strongholds we can have on this earth. More than that, He wants us to build the strongest stronghold of all - our relationship with Him through these times of trial and grief and sorrow.
Sixteen months ago I took my cousin, the Godmother of my children, off of life support. Then I had to call her mother and tell her that she had died. It was, without a doubt, the toughest thing I have had to do in my life.
And I grieved.
And I cried.
And I ranted and raved and shouted.
Yet I knew something else: my cousin was one of the strongest Christians I know. She was now sitting at the feet of Jesus, her broken, non-working earthly body gone and living a life I cannot even begin to imagine. How can I wish her back here? To a life with a broken body and total dependence on others? To a life filled with sorrow and hurt and heartache?
It's been sixteen months and I still miss her dearly. My children ask about her regularly. They want to know what her new body looks like and if she'll come again to earth when Jesus comes. I don't have answers to those questions. When they see someone in a wheelchair they say, "That person walks with wheels, just like Auntie!" and it truly is no big deal to them. When they see someone who can't talk, that too is no big deal and they talk to them like they can answer back without a problem. I don't have a way to explain to my children what is happening with their dear Auntie now. I don't have a way to quit missing my dear cousin. I don't have a way to comfort my Aunt on the loss of her only child. I don't have a way to comfort her friends and family who also miss her dearly.
What I do have is desire to make every moment of every relationship I have - a way to make up for the failings in my relationship with her.
What I do have is the remnants of the relationship my children had with her and their perfect acceptance of those with different abilities.
What I do have is the knowledge that I will see her again in paradise.
What I do have is a joy in the Lord that cannot be moved due to circumstances or failings or faults or trials.
It doesn't mean that I don't cry. Or yell. Or think about things I could have done.
It means I am able to let go of the past and move on toward the prize our Heavenly Father has waiting for me at the end.
A Pastor I had often said, "Happiness is an attitude. Joy is an altitude. Both are a choice."
And I choose to believe and follow and grow and learn.
Soli Deo Gloria.