So, today is the day. It’s a day I’ve been dreading for a while now. It is one year since my mom passed away. It’s strange the things that you think will be impossible are not so bad, and the things you don’t even consider hit you like a truck. I expected Christmas to be hard, and it was worse than I expected. But I didn’t expect it to be so hard to see the snow. I didn’t expect it to sting so badly to see my son enjoy his presents. I mean, I love it that he enjoys his presents, but to think how much she’d enjoy him enjoying them…
Or how about this one…I’m eating spaghetti tonight and I break down in tears remembering an argument we had when I was in college. I was heading back to school from a weekend away, and she sent me back with a tupperware of spaghetti. I was so mad that the second I got out of my car, I tossed it across the road into the woods. It’s stupid the things that set me off, really.
I don’t say all that to wallow in the hard memories. I say it because today I feel oddly hopeful. I am incredibly sad, but in some strange way all the stuff I tend to intellectualize about God feels more real today. It’s easy for me to talk a big talk about how God will make everything new. I can run off at the mouth for hours about how God really does understand our suffering, and that all things work together for good, and death is not the end. But how often is it really real?
There are things you know, and things you feel. And at least for this moment, these Truths are both.
One of my pastors is a guy named Dave. Dave has been talking a lot lately about the fact that God put on flesh. The thing that has grabbed Dave, and which is in turn grabbing me, is the fact that this was not just a momentary thing. The Creator of the universe didn’t just put on flesh for 33 years and then go back to being Spirit. This same Creator, the Word, Adonai, is still in the flesh. He is eternally in a perfected human body…exactly as we will be…
Exactly as my Mom is now.
That is exciting! It’s revolutionary. It goes against everything that anyone has ever thought about God. It goes against our cultural idea that says that this life, the matter that makes up everything around us, is worthless. It goes against the idea that says that we don’t have to care about this world because “some glad morning I’ll fly away.” Because this world is not being destroyed. It’s being renewed. Matter matters! It matters so much that the Creator who is Spirit took on matter as a part of his identity for the rest of eternity.
And there is the hope. When I think of a reunion with my mom, it’s not some disembodied spiritual thing. I will walk barefoot through the grass and meet her at the top of Max Patch in Madison County and give her a huge hug. We’ll have a giant family reunion with grandparents and aunts and uncles who went before, and babies we never got to meet. We’ll pet our old dog, Butch, and our old fat cat Weezer.
And she’ll introduce me to a God who knows this pain. She’ll introduce me to a God who wept over the death of his friend Lazarus.
There’s a scene in the movie “Fight Club” where Brad Pitt (Tyler Durden) kisses Edward Norton’s hand and then dumps lye on it. As it creates a chemical burn, Brad Pitt tells him to stop trying to escape the pain and just feel it. Edward Norton says, “You don’t know how this feels…” then Pitt holds up his hand to show him a lip shaped chemical burn. After that Norton settles into the pain and learns to live within it.
God has a chemical burn on his hand.
The cross is the great universal “me too.” God knows exactly how bad this feels. And while that doesn’t make the pain go away, it does help me to settle into it. And God offers something that Tyler Durden never could. God can and will actually take that pain away. And until he does, he can use it for good.
Christmas was terrible. With the exception of this time last year, Christmas was the hardest time of my life. But as the reality of today sinks in for me, I am thankful that Christmas was so hard. I am too tired to be as low as I could have been otherwise on a day like today. Having already been into the blackness, I can now see the rays of light. That is a beautiful thing.
And through these tears I read the words,
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”