Sorrowful yet Joyful
Honestly, I have had to dig deep to think on lovely things this past week. This blog helps me keep track of what goes on in my head during the hurricane of life while raising small children. Maybe some day I can show my boys, “See, I really was trying to be a thoughtful parent.” Well, this week was harder to sit down and write out what’s been going on in my head, because there has really been only one thing on my mind. It is the one year anniversary of my dad’s departure from this earth and his going home to be with his Lord.
But, in the same week and in wonderful timing, I also joyfully and prayerfully look forward to the birth of my niece. My youngest son was born 6 weeks before my dad passed away, and so by the time of my postpartum checkup, I shared his passing with my nurse. I still think it interesting that she said it was something she sees very often in her job. One family member leaves, as a new one is welcomed.
And so to sum up this week, as Paul would say, I feel sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. 2 Cor. 6:10
And what a picture of the dichotomies that abound in the Christian life – Paul lists a few more in Chapter 6. But central to the dichotomies of our new life in Christ while still on this side of heaven is the hope of our future resurrection and eternal life. The hope of resurrection changes everything. It is at the core of my being, and the power of my life. (And truthfully, the only hope that gets me out of bed some days.) And not only do I look forward to being raised one day, but He has told me that the same Spirit power that raised Christ from the dead now lives in me (Rom 8:11). Wow. I will be unpacking that one for eternity. It reminds me of Goethe’s quote: Few people have the imagination for reality.
I have no concept on this side of heaven how powerful prayers offered with the help of the Holy Spirit really are. For our struggles are not really with what we see, but the unseen (Ephesians 6:12). And prayer is the unseen weapon we wield. Paul says right now that we comprehend our reality as though seeing through a mirror dimly (I Cor 13:12). And we really can’t fully comprehend the unseen realm and all its spiritual battles and wonders until the day when He promises to lift the veil (Is 25:7) and give us full understanding. And in a beautiful picture, He promises that one day the earth will be as it was intended – filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14). Though, without the Spirit’s help to comprehend (that one receives at the moment of faith in Christ Eph 1:13-14), resurrection is mere foolishness, unable to be conceptually grasped at all.
It took me a year to finally go through the last bag dad packed for his last trip to the hospital. Glasses, socks, extra sweater, and then his constant companions: books, cough drops, pens and highlighters. I know some preach that it is a crime to highlight and make notes in books, but I must admit, I treasure pouring through his personal commentaries that he left behind in every book he ever touched.
I found some small books where he wrote little prayer requests and jotted down quotes he liked. Two stood out to me today:
When it comes to day-to-day living, we are ruled by what we love and what we fear
Religion is for those who do what they are told regardless of what is right. Spirituality is for those who do what is right regardless of what they are told.
Through all this, I am very aware of how I am teaching my older son to navigate life. I do not want him to fear death. I see him still trying to put the pieces together of where Baba went. He can say the words that Baba went to Heaven. But I know he doesn’t fully understand the permanence of it. Though what a relief I have every time in my soul when I tell my boy that we can miss Baba now, but we will see him again one day. His departing from us was a “see you later” not a “goodbye”. And when we do see him again, it will be in God’s perfect place – where there is “nothing bad, and no one sad” like one of my favorite children’s book says. (The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross by Carl Laferton)
Our time here is not in vain. And that thought comforts me often. There is a Creator God, with a plan, who holds all my tears, and all the tears of his children in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). So that some day like Paul says, the hardships we endure now will be like “light and momentary troubles” (2 Cor 4:17) against the backdrop of this beautiful and perfect eternity. And he wrote that to people who were truly going through some hardships.
My prayer for my sons- and everyone- is that the Lord will lead us into a firmer grasp of that future perfection that awaits. And like pictured in the story of Job, no matter what trials may come, we know we have a God of ultimate restoration. We have hope and confident expectation through Christ. And without Him, we are left with the opposite of Goodness. I heard someone say that to try and comprehend Hell, just start thinking of the opposite of the character of God: the opposite of the fruits of the spirit; an eternity without love, without joy, without peace.
I enjoyed leafing through one of the books Dad left on his shelf, Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber- such a good book. Some highlights of his:
He conquered death so that we may live…
The greatest sin of the Christian is to be joyless…As reflective and active Christians, one of our most important duties is to be joyful…as recipients of grace, we have much to be joyful about…The gravity of being a Christian must be matched, if not outweighed by the levity of being one.
And so, grasping the joy through the sorrow, I look forward to the new life of my niece, and I look forward to the everlasting life of eternity through Jesus.