Monday, December 22, 2014

A 5th Funeral & Interstellar Loss

I was crying and thanking Jesus almost at the same time.

My 34-year old nephew had been killed instantly in a head-on collision near Tunica, MS the Friday before Thanksgiving. He'd been married to his second wife a little over a year. While he struggled like so many in our family have with his emotions, he was a believer who loved Christian music, the outdoors, his wife, his sons and his family.

I would, thanks to Christ, see him again.

But not anytime soon. And first, we had to love on the living.

After I got the news, I sat down and began listening to Hans Zimmer's powerful, mournful, weighty soundtrack for Interstellar. It was cathartic and let me weep out the pain of my loss. One track, "Stay," where Murph wants her Dad to remain on Earth instead of going on his mission to save humanity, stuck hard in my soul.

You can hear the loss, the barren lands. The emptiness.

When I arrived at the funeral home, I did what all sons and pastors should do. I held his mother, his sisters, his wife and his former wife one at a time. We wept together. I prayed my arms would be those of Jesus, if for a moment.

They even did a beautiful memorial video for him with his favorite song:

But On the Way to the Funeral...
Listening to the soundtrack for Interstellar had helped me to air out my heart. Yet I knew I needed more than that. I am a believer in Christ, yes, and I am an ordained minister. I had to have more than emotional release. It had to become spiritual strength. I had to process the pain so some good could eventually come of it. Pain itself is not good; pain processed and accepted can become a great help to others - but I just was inadequate to do it. I was spinning.

Driving ten hours in pain is not where anyone wants to be. So, after listening to two hours of this amazing soundtrack (grieving and praying) as I flew along I-59 in the dark in a 20-year old car at 70 mph, I decided I needed to listen to something else to keep my mind alert and my soul secure.

I grabbed one of my old Steve Brown CDs stuck in my visor holder.

"Hi, I'm Steve Brown, and God loves you!
He might even like you too!"
If you are not familiar, Steve Brown is an evangelical Bible teacher who taught homiletics [preaching] at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He's been doing ministry for decades at Key Life Ministries and has a winsome gravelly voice.

I hadn't listened to Steve in years. He was spot-on: this battle-hardened Bible teacher said things that I had not understood years earlier about the costs of being a pastor: the liberals who irritate & malign you, the constant heretics and the pain of being a servant to the ungrateful.

As soon as anyone says "Oh, a pastor shouldn't feel that way!" you know you are talking to someone who has never done the job. Not for any length of time.

In moments, I was in awe. This was a man who had done it, angered people and kept going because, as he said, "Once you see the truth, you cannot un-see it."

He talked about arguing with the people he loved. He talked about the alienation and isolation so many pastors feel as the assaults on their character builds. He talked about all the angry and unhappy Christ-followers.

Christians should be the happiest people on the Earth, because they know their sins are forgiven. What makes us unhappy is... well...

...they are not home yet. They live here.

They cry here. They die here.

So what we have to do is not say "It doesn't hurt. I can take it!" but rather "I cannot take it. Jesus help me. Jesus hold me."

God does not "help those who help themselves," contrary to the popular saying. He helps those who cannot help themselves.

Jesus understands pain. He who formed the stars, also knows what sudden and deep sorrow is.

How do we know this? The shortest verse in the Bible tells us.

"Jesus wept."

As Steve would say, "You think about that."


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