Life Isn’t About Overcoming
The other day I was scrolling through facebook when I came upon an announcement from a friend. Her mother had died, and a celebration service was being held in her mother’s honor at a future date.
A celebration service?
When my mom died, we had a funeral—not a celebration service, not a memorial service, . . . a good old-fashioned funeral. Me, my dad, sisters, and others . . . cried. We shared memories of mom, the times we enjoyed with her, and then grieved. She wasn’t coming back. She died. Sure, we had the hope that we would see her again one day, but that didn’t undo the fact that mom was gone and left a huge, gaping hole in all of our lives.
It was not a celebration service. It was a mourning session.
Death is an enemy. It leaves a sting that lasts a lifetime. Sometimes the only proper response to an enemy is to shake one’s fists and scream at the top of one’s lungs. Sometimes the right response is to weep.
Who is to say what is right?
I am just tired of the aversion our culture has to loss and suffering, and the church is seldom any different. Is there no place for the hurting to simply hurt? Do we have to rush people into some state of superficial joy? Can’t we allow for space to lament? Maybe an occasional dirge rather than a praise song would be fitting some Sunday mornings.
But we live in a day and age when it’s all about triumphing. Being more than conquerors. Not letting our problems get us down. Beating it. Rejoicing in the Lord always.
Heaven forbid that we use the word “died.” That sounds too cold, too insensitive. It is much kinder and polite to say, “passed away,” “went home,” “departed,” or “fell asleep.”
That just seems so plastic, unreal, inhuman. Are we afraid of something? Is our theology screwed up? Our faith deficient? Do we like playing pretend?
Overcoming isn’t the end goal. It can’t be. For starters, we are all going to die; there is no escaping that. En route, you and I are going to lose hair, teeth, eye sight, body mass, bladder control, and a whole lot more (sounds exciting, eh?).
In the meantime, we are not going to win every battle. Sometimes divorce is inevitable. The cancer may not go away. We won’t get the job. Our son is not coming back. We may not be getting out of prison. We will be single the rest of our life (or stuck in a bad marriage). Our struggle with alcohol is not going to end.
Let’s not kid ourselves.
Will our lives still have meaning? Yes. Can we still find satisfaction? Yes.
“Success,” however, may be out of the question.
So what do we do? We begin by getting honest with ourselves. Instead of denying reality and looking for ways to avoid our pain, we lean into it. We hold it. We create room for it.
In this way we acknowledge our limitations, our brokenness. Our neediness.
And that is where we find God.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity
under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and
a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and
a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn
and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather
them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain.”