Monday, June 1, 2009


I've never experienced life to be perfect, nor have I expected it to be so. I am usually not surprised if things go wrong. I don't feel offended. It's just the order of the universe. I do believe God is good and is in control, but somehow this world has gone very wrong. The fact that there is genocide in Africa, a booming sex trade in Europe, and millions of orphans worldwide testifies to this fact. Clearly, I am not the only person who has to deal with the effects of sin and death. So I usually feel like I can deal with my small share of difficulties.

However, losing Joseph has changed me in so many ways I almost feel like I've emerged from this a new person. I really and truly don't expect that everyone I'm close to will be alive tomorrow. Death has come so close to home that it seems like a very real possibility that anyone I love could be taken from me at any time. I look at newscasters or sportscasters and see their smiling faces and wonder, "Do you know how short life is? You are reporting on someone dying as if it couldn't happen to you or won't happen to us and yet your life could be taken from you this next minute." I just feel like world is carrying on in some kind of charade, pretending like we live forever and death is this horrible end that only comes to the very unfortunate or very old. But we all die. Every single one of us. No exceptions (unless God returns before we die, of course). Okay so that's the one exception. :)

But we don't live like we know we are going to die. We go about life, collecting toys and things and money, and chase after bigger houses, nicer cars, better jobs, as if all that will guarantee us some kind of permanence. How did we buy into this?

We were invited over to a couple's house the other night--the Scotts. They have lost two beautiful small children to a rare neurological disease that slowly robs its victims of the ability to talk, hear, move, function, yet it spares their brain in that they are aware of what is going on in their little bodies. They felt trapped in a once healthy body and their parents were powerless to stop their deterioration. What kind of hell on earth would that be?

Yet they invited us into their home, cooked us dinner, allowed us to see their children's rooms and pictures, and generally opened their hearts to us. I felt like we were walking on sacred ground. They had moved into this beautiful farm house with a barn to provide a better environment for their children and I felt so special they were willing to share it with us. But more than that, we instantly entered into a level of talking that I think is unusual for a first meeting. We talked about suffering, anger, pain, God, our counselors, our feelings, how we cope with our individual pain, etc. It was beautiful to enter into a real conversation about real things and not pretend like our lives were perfect. Sure, they are angry, confused, raging at God, raging at other people. But that doesn't scare me anymore. Before all this happened with Joseph, I would have been really sympathetic, but not very tolerant of people irate at God. I would have thought it irreverent. Now I see it as a natural honest response, and one that God can handle. And God has shown me the depths of feelings I can experience so when I see those in other people now it doesn't offend me or scare me like it used to. I really felt so blessed that they would share a window into their souls with us.

They are faced with the sobering fact that this world is not it. Their children are now in another place, and as much as we live in this world, our hearts are tied up in another. But the other side of feeling like death is close at hand is feeling like heaven is close at hand. I think so much about heaven now, talk about it almost every day with Holly, and probably view it as a much more real place than I used to. Holly will still say things like, "I like playing with Joe P. the best. But, he's in heaven." Or, "I do have a brother, but he's at heaven." We will often speculate about what he's doing, what he's playing with, if he's watching us and laughing, etc. The Bible says in Hebrews that we are surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses" who are there cheering us on in the "race marked out for us." I believe that to be true, and I like to imagine Joseph very near, watching, laughing, encouraging, much more present than we can actually see.

I also feel like in worshiping now, the realness of God's presence is so overwhelming I can't help but cry. Every single time I go to church I have a really hard time not weeping openly. I don't completely understand why this is, but I think part of it is that I connect Joseph with Jesus now, so when I am singing to God I can picture Joseph there too, joining in the chorus, and the reality of that is so joyful but then sad that I am just overcome with emotion.

One day all things will be made right. One day things will be perfect. I am confident of that. But for now we live in the in-between, caught in a world of pain and sadness and gross imperfection, yet strangely connected to God and heaven and often catching glimpses of that beauty. It is a tough place to live in--yet the promise of perfection keeps me from losing all hope. One day I will see Joseph's smile again, sing with him, play with him and just enjoy being in God's presence. And there will be no sickness or sin or death. That hope doesn't make the pain of missing him go away, but it does keep me from drowning in it.