I’m alone on my porch on a beautiful spring morning, drinking my second cup of coffee and watching the sunlight sift through the plum tree. It’s been less than a week since we stood in a downpour and committed my Dad’s body to the earth. Everyone has gone home, back to work. The flowers have wilted and the sympathy cards are stacked on a corner of the kitchen table.
Life goes on.
When I gave the eulogy at his funeral I talked to the children and told them about the great-grandfather most of them did not know before he had forgetting disease. We included all the children in our gathering because what better way is there to teach them about physical death and spiritual life than with a family member who loved the Lord, lived to an old age, and was longing to be present with the Lord and reunited with his loved ones? I spoke of all his fine qualities and the wonderful things he taught us. We do that at funerals. It’s about honour.
But there are things we don’t talk about. Like all human beings going back to Adam’s grandchildren he was the wounded son of a wounded son. He brought his deficits into our relationship the way I dragged mine into my own children’s nursery. There were seasons when I adored him and seasons when I avoided him for months at a time.
It was complicated.
I don’t think I had left anything unsaid before he passed away. He said he forgave me. I had certainly forgiven him and Jesus had replaced a whole lot of unwanted feelings with love and compassion for him, but there are a lot of things I can’t explain no matter how many words I use. No sympathy in form of visits or cards or flowers – or even therapy – can ever say, “I understand.” We say that to each other, but we don’t understand, not really. Every heart has its own sorrow. Every heart is alone in grief.
But we do not have to be totally alone. There is one who understands all our weaknesses. Unlike so many of the versions fed to us by angry unapproachable people of an angry unapproachable God who can’t bear to look at us because of our sin, Jesus approached us first. He, who was the perfect representative of the nature of Father God, chose to associate with those whose sins had become a part of their names -the harlot, the thief, the drunk, the hypocrite. He sat down right beside them. He was not disappointed in them because he never had any expectations in the first place. He had sympathy and compassion for them. He wept with them. He loved them. His joy in going to the cross was in knowing the freedom and new names they – and all who call on his name – would receive.
Since we have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God
who has passed through the heavens from death into new life with God, let us hold tightly to our faith.
For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.
He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious, without failing God.
So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help when we need it most.
(Hebrews 4:14-16 The Voice)
This morning an old song came to mind:
In the morning when I rise,
Give me Jesus.
And when I am alone,
Give me Jesus.
And when I come to die,
Give me Jesus.
You can have all this world, just give me Jesus.
He’s all I need. Because of him life goes on – eternally.
For the past two weeks my four-year old granddaughter has asked for the same song, “Strings” by Misty Edwards to be played over and over again. Today as I took all three little ones to a friend’s so I could rush to the hospital after learning her daddy’s condition had deteriorated, I asked if she wanted to hear “Strings”. I thought it might calm my soul as well.
She said, “No. Play the next song.”
It was, “I believe that you’re my healer.”
“That’s the one!” she said.
I didn’t tell her what was happening with Daddy, but she sang so sweetly and innocently and confidently in the back seat:
Nothing is impossible for you
Nothing is impossible
Nothing is impossible for you...
Daddy was so unstable this morning they didn’t dare move him across the hallway into the O.R., but rather did further surgery on him in the ICU.
We cling to hope.
I have friends who love ice fishing. They are out there all bundled up before dawn and after dusk just for the thrill of pulling a skinny little fish out of the hole.
Me? I have to contemplate whether the joy of buying a hunk of fish more frozen than the ones in the lake is worth scraping the snow off the car to drive down to the Superstore. The whole idea of freezing precious parts of my anatomy to catch one from a frozen lake leaves me cold. Ice fishing is not my talent and I politely refuse even when friends try to pressure me into joining them. I don’t even feel guilty, which almost makes me feel guilty, but not quite.
Travel is always iffy this time of year, in this part of the world. We live in the Rocky Mountains, but our adult children have all followed the jobs to prairie cities. It is understood that estimated times of arrival are followed with a “weather permitting” in most of Canada in the winter. We will be there by a certain time if –if the passes are open, if the roads have been plowed, if no trucks have jack-knifed on the icy curves, if the winds don’t whip up white-out conditions, if the car starts again after we stop for lunch…
One year the nine hour trip to our grandchildren’s house for Christmas took two days. We had to stop half way and wait for the plows and sanding trucks. It was nearly minus 40 Celsius when we reached Northern Alberta and in spite of a good heater our feet were freezing. Icicles actually formed inside the car from our breath. We were frankly a little stressed and rather grumpy when we pulled up in front of the house.
As we trudged up the walk on crunchy, squeaky snow (very cold snow is loud), necks retreating into our parkas like frazzled turtles, our little grandson flung open the front door and yelled, “Did you KNOW about canny canes?”
“DID YOU KNOW ABOUT CANNY CANES? Why nobody tell me about canny canes afore?”
He pulled us into the house and before we had time to take our fogged-up glasses off or share hugs all around, he shoved green and red striped candy canes into our mitted hands. “You lick them like this! But first you should take off the plastic. Did you KNOW about canny canes? Wow! They so good!”
He spun around the room doing a hilarious canny cane dance. “Why you didn’t tell me?”
The strain of the previous two days disappeared entirely as we experienced joy through a three-year old’s taste buds.
Sometimes I feel like that about Jesus Christ. I want to fling open the door and shout, “Did you KNOW about Jesus? Did you KNOW how good He is? Why nobody tell me about this good Jesus afore? Wow! He’s so good!!” Then I do my funny little God-is-so-good dance. You should see it.
Joy comes with the morning.
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not harm thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”
(from “How Firm a Foundation” by John Keene)
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28,29)