Once again our church community is mourning the loss of a beloved member. Once again a parent has lost a young adult child. Once again we are coming to grips with sorrow and love.
It seems wrong that a child dies before his/her parents. It is the wrong order of life and death. Unfortunately it is a place that we have visited a fair amount of times with dear friends and with extended family. It is a place which begs me to scream and wail at God, how can you allow this to happen?
A couple of weekends ago was the family visitation and a memorial service. It was beautiful: so peaceful, so compassionate, so life affirming. There are not enough nor adequate words to describe the young man who died. He was an original with a capital "O". Someone who squeezed every ounce of life out of his twenty-eight years on earth. He was one of the most self-assured, comfortable-in-his-own-skin, approachable, lovable, accepting individuals. He inspired people to be the best version of themselves because he inspired people to be the version that God sees.
As with all deaths, I think we tend to focus on our own death- what could people say about me, would anyone come?- but we also think of our loved ones- what would I do without him, how can I go on without her?
In the particular case of this death it was so sudden. There was no disease, no accident, no indication that anything was amiss. He was here living life and then he was not. There wasn't time to have any bargaining with God as if we can ever bargain for lives.
As a mom I know that I would respond to God, Lord, take me instead. I would most certainly be willing to give up my life for someone else. But would I be willing to give up someone else? Am I willing to lose someone I love to death? I don't know how much I would be willing to give up our boys or my husband if there ever was a choice.
Yet, that is what God did. He gave up His son, sent Him to earth, allowed Him to be separated from His heavenly father for a time in order to have Him rescue all of us for all eternity. Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, there would never be separation from our Heavenly Father again.
And so God sometimes asks us to be willing and perhaps to actually, give up things, people and relationships in order to get us in a place where we may never be separated from Him or our loved ones again. I think of how God asks us to be like Abraham and to be willing to sacrifice that which is the most meaningful to us (in his case, his son Isaac). God was more concerned with Abraham's obedience than the sacrifice.
Do I trust God with all that I have, with all of my life and with all that I love? Can I entrust my future to Him even if it might bring me temporary but great sorrow? I pray that no one ever has to endure what our friends and loved ones have. But I also pray that I may come to a place that I can say, "thy will be done" whatever that might be.
It is a place where sorrow and love flow mingled down. It is a place that we visited over that weekend. It is a place where through our tears we can still see the Glory of God through community, care and love of one another. And it is a place, strangely enough of hope.
One of my favorite hymns is "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross". It came immediately to my mind when I first heard the news of the death.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.