37 years ago today, I attended the funeral of my brother, Dan.
The service began at 1:00.
The church was packed. Standing room only. The coffin was regal. The flowers were beautiful. The sharing about my brother’s life was memorable. Tears flowed freely.
Then everyone went home.
How were we supposed to do that? The calendar pages kept turning but our lives twisted and turned off schedule from reality. Just eleven days prior, on October 18, I enjoyed a beautiful Saturday morning as a graduate student in Maryland. I ran in a beautiful park with a group of friends, donned my favorite sweatshirt and was studying.
The phone rang at 1:00
It was my mom. She was crying. Dan had been in a motorcycle accident. I needed to get to a hospital in New Jersey as quickly as possible.
I said goodbye to him on October 25 and his organs were donated to multiple recipients on October 26 — Dan’s heart, corneas and kidneys. The funeral was held October 29, as you already know. This past week was filled with anniversary dates of tragedy. My life was busy but I was quiet.
Everyone thought I had strong faith, including me.
I didn’t. As it turns out, I loved Jesus, but I did not yet have a deep root system that could explain such things as why there is suffering in the world. I also had not yet learned the safety of God’s unconditional love. In short, I did not have the spiritual, relational or emotional skills to make it through my brother’s death.
I was already fragile when Dan died. I was still heartbroken over a man who decided he didn’t love me back, and I was still crushed by the decision a ministry made that I was not qualified for leadership based on the recommendations of a psychologist after a 45-minute private meeting with twenty-three year old me. My life made a U-turn and I headed off to graduate school.
Now this. My dear brother Dan.
Seven years of a mess ensued as I tried to do life without God and without community. I sought love in all the wrong places. I promised love I don’t know how to give. I now know I didn’t even know what love was.
And I missed doing life with Jesus.
I knew the truth. It never left me. I missed it. And I came back.
There aren’t just prodigal sons. There are prodigal daughters too, who end up eating from the proverbial pig troughs and decide to hike back home.
And he [the prodigal son] was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.(Luke 15:16-18)
My Heavenly Father welcomed me with open arms.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:19)
I haven’t left His side since.
I married in the same sanctuary where my brother’s funeral took place. What a sacred spot on the earth that sanctuary is to me.
Our wedding also began at 1:00
I had to start my life all over again. I had to dig deep to find out what went wrong, write volumes of words no one will read, soul search, learn what I missed the first time around, ask forgiveness of others and confess so much sin it’s hard for me to judge anyone.
A phone call, a funeral, and a wedding.
These mark my life, and God has used them to teach me that the Christian life is not about ministry activities, but about a relationship with our Creator through His Son Jesus while infused with the power of the Holy Spirit instead of the measly power of human strength. He only asks us to love the people in front of us. We love them deeply with the name of Jesus ready on our lips and with their names ready on our lips in prayer.
God just does things with lives like that.
I was in Publix a few weeks ago and almost burst into tears in the frozen food aisle. My mouth uttered, “I miss you, Danny. I wish you were here.” To this day, I watch out for motorcycles on the road and have prayed I never hit one. I know what it does to a family when a strong flesh-covered body of a motorcyclist loses its battle with solid concrete. Your death didn’t surprise God, but it surprised me. I lost my way for a while but God has been faithful.
This is really important.
Why did Jesus come? People usually respond first with, “He came to die to the forgiveness of our sins,” but something larger happened. The resurrection. Jesus came to break the curse of death (the penalty of sin).
…and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be death; there will no longer be sorrow and anguish, or crying, or pain; for the former order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
And there will no longer be death! God is life. God did not introduce death. We did! We did, when we decided in the garden of Eden to do things our way and live separately from our literal source of life. Even Satan the serpent knew the truth.
“You shall not surely die,” he told Eve. (Genesis 3:4)
Liar! Yes, we do die. My brother’s death was not God’s fault. What happened in the garden allowed death. God grieved with me over Dan’s death and knew the depth of my pain. How God wins over Satan’s attempt to ruin our life-giving relationship with God is by using hardship for our good instead of the ruin Satan was hoping for. God is capable of producing so much good from the hardships of life that sometimes the devil is sorry he even tried to mess with one of God’s children.
God is life, in Him there is no death.
Picture Explanation: Dan. The picture above shows Dan on the right in a sweater. Below is the last time I saw him alive.
Speaking of living our short lives in meaningful ways: If you are interested in being contacted to participate in a One Gritty Blink Bible study, click on the Oaks Ministries link below and send me an email so I can place you on a list to be contacted as online and face-to-face studies are planned. Let’s not just focus on things in this short life, but also what counts for eternity!
Note: No part of my posts are derived from A.I. Thoughts and writing stem from my mind and heart as I process life week-by-week and continue to grow in my understanding of God and how to apply His wisdom to the world around me. This week the words came from my gut.
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