This week begins the holiday season. I'm not sure what I feel about them this year. This week will put us one month away from December 22, the one year anniversary of the passing of my niece Kate, suddenly in the night due to an aggressive and unknown strand of pneumonia. She was a happy 21 month old. It is still shockingly painful and at times raw.
My 10 year old daughter, Ali, wrote this for a paper at school this week, entitled "WHY":
"Oh why oh why did this happen to her? She was only 21 months old. I started to cry. I was at the funeral for my cousin Kate. I went over to the casket that Kate was in. Savannah, my cousin the same age as me, and my Mom went over and we started to cry. Everyone was crying too. I reached my hand out and I felt her cheek. She felt hard like a baby doll. I too looked under the blanket on top of her. I saw her pacifier. It reminded me of the last night when she was alive. I wish I could have known those were my last moments with her. Why did it have to be her? I cried to my Mom. Why? Why is Kate in there? (sister Paige asked) Paige is Kate's siser, Paige did not understand her sister was dead. I gave Savannah a big hug, she gave me one back. We told each other it's going to be alright. We knew it really wasn't though. When we left, I said, "Mom, I don't want to leave her! I want to be with her, I can't let her go." "I know" my Mom said still crying. "But you have to remember Kate is in a better place now." I asked, "But why?" bursting out in tears. "Why?" I repeated. "Why is it her?!" "Why? . . . Why?" Mom said, "I don't know, no one does. Sometimes things happen." Mom said she didn't want to leave either. I don't want to cry about her but it was hard for me. She was the first person I knew to die. I will never forget her no matter what. She will always be in my broken heart."
To follow Jesus includes a road of suffering. It is a baptism of fire. No one asks for it, but they happen and the desert is a very rough teacher. Continuing the cycling of grief makes all the talk of emerging church and ministry so irrelevant. If you want to be cool and hip and relevant, stay out of ministry and find a job in marketing. If you want to follow Jesus, then pick up your sword and start swinging. Its not a program nor technique, its War and it will take the wind right out of you. There will come a day when the Kingdom comes in fullness, for now, its reality is only in part here. But. . . that's a pretty beautiful part. You want a ministry? Forget all the books and techniques. Find the people you think are beautiful and love them. Its not anything more complicated. To fulfill that love, it will cost you everything. But in following Jesus, you inherit everything that matters.
There is still so much mystery in this suffering, but we never suffer alone. When I don't know how to make sense of things, I tend to just pick up my sword and start swinging at anything in the darkness. Until the Enemy can crush the wind out of my lungs, I will not relent. It is an unshakeable Kingdom and the Hope of the Kingdom Come is upon us. Participate in it. live it, breathe it, fight for it. In a world where death is yet a reality, Hope and Life is our Rebellion. Just pick up your sword and start swinging.
peace to your house this night,