Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Welcome Home, Part Two

My friends Jon and Jenni lost their son, Chase, last week after only four short hours of life. We believe Jesus welcomed Chase home with open arms.
Jon and Jenni are heroic. They challenged current perspectives by carrying the baby to term. Then under what can be the crushing grief of losing a child, they throw a different kind of hope in our face. They challenge us on their blog not to waste Chase's life. People often use this phrase, but they set the bar even higher. They remind us that neither should we waste death. This throws us right back to the foot of the cross where the power of the gospel can completely change our egocentristic perspective. Who, except Jesus, would have the power to change not only life but redeem death?
Paul deeply knew the value of this lesson. He writes in 2 Timothy 1:8-14

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

What rich truth! What hope! It is because of the mercy of God and through his great Love that we believe He redeems and restores that which, without His death, would merely be suffering without purpose.

Yet grief is a real part of the process, where we learn to take the suffering we experience and recognize God's purpose despite our pain. He draws us close. He "stores our tears in a bottle". "Surely He has borne our sorrows." Different seasons of grief, beginning early on in my life, at age 2 with my Opa's death, have carved deep channels into my heart, avenues of grace in grief that have made me face how God can still be good despite loss. I grieved over his death, only to see my uncle die and leave behind five cousins. My mother's miscarriages and then my other grandfather's death at first made me question God's good sovereignty.

Now I see how they were preparing me to face other trials and suffering. They taught me early on that suffering is to be expected in this life. But here's the secret: The Gospel makes all the difference. Because I know that real and lasting joy is not in this life, but in the life to come. I love what I read the other day about grief and this process of acceptance. Madeleine L'Engle writes:

"Now I am setting out into the unknown. It will take me a long while to work through the grief. There are no shortcuts;it has to be gone through...A couple of years ago a friend called me from her hospital bed, demanding, "Madeleine, do you believe everything that you have written in your books?"
I said yes then. It is still yes today.

But grief still has to be worked through. It is like walking through water. Sometimes there are little waves lapping about my feet. Sometimes there is an enormous breaker that knocks me down. Sometimes there is a sudden and fierce squall. But I know that many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.

from Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage

White's Ferry Crossing, Maryland

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