Monday, April 26, 2010

Suffocating... with Hope

I miss my dad so much that I can't breathe.

I don't need to hear that God loves me and everything is going to be okay. I know that. I don't need to be told to seek the Light and lay my burdens at the cross. I know that too. I don't need to be encouraged to remember X, Y or Z truth about God and His Word that will take away my pain and make everything right. Dad's death will never be right. I don't need to be reminded that there can be joy even in the midst of the worst pain imaginable. This I have experienced. Recently. I don't need to hear that this will make me stronger. That's a lie, anyway. This will not make me stronger. It will make me weaker. It will make me more dependent on Christ, which will make the power of Christ rest on me.

Again, these are not things any of you have said to me. These are things I have said to you, when you were hurting. For this I repent in dust and ashes. I'm so sorry for all the times I've told all y'all, inadvertently, through spiritual platitudes void of compassion, to get over it. Like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

I think Christians feel really uncomfortable with raw pain. Many think it borders on sin. I think that's why the platitudes come out in force when someone hurts. We want to make it go away, or we want to confess it away, or preach it away. The Bible talks all the time about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, right? Oh, wait. That's the Declaration of Independence. I think most of the time, American Christians confuse the two, conceptually.

But this is wrong thinking. God allows pain. He allows suffering. He allows His children to be tossed about, bruise and battered, stripped of everything, barren, maimed, crippled. He allows me and my sister to grow full beards. He allows my family friend to have his larynx removed. He allows that man's wife to never hear her husband's voice again. He allows my mother to be a widow. He allows my brothers to live the rest of their lives with images of frozen dad burned on their memories. He allows my friend's brother to be a prisoner of war. He allows earthquakes that cause mass destruction and the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. He allows genocide.

He allowed the Apostle Paul to be imprisoned, flogged, near death many times, the five-time recipient of the Jews' thirty-nine lashes, beaten with rods, stoned, three times shipwrecked, stranded on the open sea, in danger from rivers, bandits, his own countrymen, Gentiles, in the city, in the country, at sea, from false brothers. Sleepless, hungry, thirsty, cold, naked, and heartbroken.

He allowed the saints of old to be jeered at, flogged, chained, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two, put to death by the sword, insufficiently clothed, destitute, persecuted, mistreated, wandering in deserts, mountains, caves and holes in the ground.

He allowed His Son to die.

He allowed my dad to take his own life.

And He allows me to miss my dad so much that I can't breathe.

I am suffocating.

But I am suffocating... with hope.

Because God does not allow only suffering. He also allows grace and strength and hope and love and worship.

And peace.

After Dad died, peace blanketed his family. The day his body was found, I felt that peace descend, surrounding and covering me. At my mom's house, the undergirding of peace was so thick you could cut it with a knife. It was palpable.

That same blanket of peace covers me now, and it demonstrates to me the power of my God. And grace. And light and life and joy. It enables me to trust that what God allows will be for the praise of His glory. I am not skilled to understand what God has willed, what God has planned. But living, dying, let me bring my strength, my solace from this spring, that He who lives to be my King once died to be my Savior.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gt0WluTpFTg&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0x2b405b&color2=0x6b8ab6]

(You may need to visit my blog to view this video.)