Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Death

Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. Psalm 39:4

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

I work with a GriefShare group at my church. I see sadness, sorrow and grieving every week. At the beginning of every new 13 week session each new participant is encouraged to share their story...their most recent loss. They are new to us and we are unfamiliar with their stories.

It's very hard the first few weeks...there's barely a dry eye in the room. It's with true empathy we cry with them. We share their hurt...we grieve their loss and shed tears in genuine sorrow, but as leaders, our hurts are now in the past. We have healed, to the extent, that we can help bear their burdens. We've known their pain in our past. We are here week after week because we know the depth of their sadness and needs. But...at the end of the evening we return home and we know we've grown a little callous because the pain, their pain, is not a constant with us. We don't think of it every moment...we don't cry at breakfast the next morning over their loss. We're there each week but we have our small measure of protection in place so we don't drown in their sorrow.

It's not a bad thing. It's so natural that we don't even realize we have distanced ourselves from grief - whether it be our old hurts, or their new ones. Time puts distance between the hurt and the memory of the pain. It's healing, and God gives it to us so we can move forward.

But there are times when grief reaches into our safety zone and punches us in the gut! A co-worker's son is killed is a car crash. A friend from church, who is already grieving the loss of her husband, is now grieving the loss of her only daughter...murdered!

A sister looses her only brother; father and mother lose their only son, ...a rebellious son, now gone. They will never have that time to reconcile and say those words of love that were held back because of his behavior.

A mother looses her only daughter to the abusive husband she had tried to escape. Her daughter's future gone in an instant in a fit of rage. Now this grandmother will be mothering her three granddaughters. The promise of living out her years with her daughter and her grandchildren has evolved into her shouldering the responsibility of primary care-giver at the age of 60.

Our neat little plans are shattered...hope is lost. Now it hurts. Now it's real. The pain reminds me once again that grief is powerful, and loss - it's permenant. We know it's inevitable, but it's inevitable only in that each of us must die. It's a mystical thing we don't think about. (No longer the thought of "if" we die, but "when" we die.) We play out our lives in our minds eye with a "safety net" always in place. God is good, therefore...no parent looses their child, we always outlive our children! It's the order of life! We know we'll lose our parents, but that's down the road. They're not really that old yet! Our brothers, sisters, husband, wife, our friends, our children - not even a thought for impending death. We know we're not going to live forever, but we also don't put death on our radar. It's so far down the road, never close at hand...yet always closer than we think.

This life is a gift. Precious and brief - blink of an eye - gone! Am I ready? Ready to live? Ready to leave? Have I completed my purpose...do I even know what my purpose is? Am I following Christ? Am I bringing Him honor and glory? Am I leaving a legacy or a mess? Have I told my husband I love and appreciate him? Have I hugged my children and told them how proud I am of them and the lives they are creating for themselves? Have I kissed my grandchildren so they will know I loved them? Do my friends know what they mean to me and what an encouragement they are in my life? Do I cherish each moment I have with those I love? Am I taking the time to listen - really listen? Am I wasting time? Do I still honestly believe I have time?

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

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