A Funeral Sermon at Christmas

Where do we go with our pain?

[REPOST: This was originally posted on my previous blog in December of 2014 for the one-year anniversary of my grandfather’s death. The response has been so overwhelming over the years I am posting it again this Advent season.]

This is the sermon I wrote for and preached at my grandfather’s funeral December 21, 2013.

James T. Boyd left us December 10, 2013. It is also written for all who sorrow, for any reason. Peace and rest to you this season.

Oh God, where do we go from here? Where do we go when our loved one passes while we are left to refigure life anew? Where do we go with the unanswerable questions… and even deeper pain? What if there are regrets, unspoken honor, and unfinished conversations? Where do we go with longings cut short by uncontrollable events?

Our Son Would Turn 5 Years Old Today

Jonan would be five

Five years ago I gave birth to a baby boy but the only cries in that delivery room were from those of us grieving his silence. He was stillborn in my sixth month due to a severe case of Amniotic Band Syndrome. Almost 3 kids later, his death, at times, can feel like a world away, yet every year as January 26th approaches I can cry as if I am waking up to attend his funeral again. This year is no different, and in some mysterious way, more difficult for me. Grief continues to prove it’s complexity; and while my soul reminds me it can’t be tamed, it reminds me afresh that it must be tended.

O Come, O Come

Between working from home, basic hygiene, nourishment needs, relational needs, the holidays, oh…being pregnant, a one-year old, volunteering…yeah, I don’t seem to have time for my writing luxury these days. I have missed you all! Thanks for being patient and following along these ponderings with me. True-to-life is the nature of them, so true-to-life is the nature of their frequency as well, I suppose. Well, enough ado. O Come, O Come…

I don’t want to go that deep.

I feel like I really liked Elsa up until about two weeks ago.

Recently, things have been challenging. Not so much because of the sleeping, the eating, or even the crawling…but because of the needing. She seems to fancy little else than me.  I can’t make reason to it, but perhaps now that she is mobile she likes the fact that she can “come get me” any time; perhaps she sees now that she truly is a different person than me and is adjusting to this reality; or perhaps she simply wants to be with me. She likes me. She needs me. And she is, as far as we can determine, a deeply wired extrovert (more on that another time). Not to negate the relational essence born within us all, we just think Elsa may have a hefty relational capacity.

Last week was simply exhausting. I cannot make my breakfast without dodging around her little hands and feet begging for me to pick her up. She climbs up on my legs and screams. Many times I pick her up, but sometimes I just need to, oh, eat, brush my teeth, pee. Nothin’ fancy here, just regular life stuff.  It is difficult to determine what she wants and she is whinier than ever before. All this plus this inability to do (what feels like) anything is, frankly, starting to wear on me. I enjoy time alone to think, pray, read, write. I like to have a little, you know, s  p  a  c  e. I have relationships where I am vulnerable and honest…it’s not that I am not trying to hide; I merely desire space to disengage or engage to my comfort level whenever I want to… Is that so much to ask?

Apparently the answer is “yes.” And let me tell you, I have a rotten attitude about it. Rot-ten. No two ways about it. If you desire confirmation, please reference Jeff. He can certainly affirm this about me lately. He joyfully comes home last Friday evening for his weekend to a wife frustrated, angry and passing him a baby saying something about how going to work must feel like a vacation. No joy. No grace. And certainly, no dinner.  Just hear about my crummy day and somehow make me happy (though we all know this is a near impossible demand to meet with so much rotting from within).  We manage through the weekend. I sleep in both days with daddy-super-powers taking care of Elsa. By 9am on Sunday morning, I was up and ready to enjoy the day, meanwhile Jeff collapses on the bed after putting Elsa down for her nap. Something deep inside me felt vindicated. “It’s tough sh-t, isn’t it?” I say with a smile. “Uh-huh” rolls off his lips mingling with the drool as the drifts off to sleep. There’s just no other way to say it right now.

About two hours later we are sitting in church when Father Stewart gets up to preach.  He’s using that verse about children and the Kingdom of God. That one from Matthews Gospel in chapter 19 where Jesus says, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” With the Great Teacher Jesus being in town, many parents were bringing infants, toddlers, and probably older children to for Jesus to bless them (a very important thing in that culture). The disciples were none-too-happy about this. They were trying to keep them away. You can read above how Jesus responds.  This is not just a PR moment for Jesus. (If you read the whole of his Gospels, you may have gathered he isn’t much for PR anyhow.) What he is doing is living the Kingdom, and telling us how to do the same. These are not just cute, innocent children. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them. Whoa. That is a big statement. Weighty. A, hey, catch this, listen up, pay attention sort of statement. (Not to mention there is no mention of the innocence of children anywhere in Scripture, there is even mention to the opposite.) It is the openness, the desire, the I-trust-you-and-just-want-to-be-with-you childlikeness to which Jesus is pointing us. This, he says, this is essential to the Kingdom.

Great.  I am utterly guilty. I despise this very part of my daughter right now. When she screams, inwardly I do, too. So, I could hear this sermon and put my mind in an-okay-time-to-try-harder place at home. Knowing full well my attitude has not budged; I could merely feel the burden of obedience rather than the joy of submission.

But I won’t settle for this. I know this is a relationship with a Living God, not a “faith” to which I complacently offer my intellectual ascent.

Ok, (my attitude begins to begrudgingly bloom)…what do you want to say to me here, God? Help me. Pick me up…

I get the sense within (not an audible voice) that the moments Elsa cries out for me…let those be moments for me to remember my own childlikeness. My own need for God.  To remember my soul really does cry out for the closeness of the Only God who ever came near.  I feel this challenge deep.

Now almost 24 hours since I have heard this call from the Spirit of a Very Near God, I find myself longing to submit. I cried as Jeff and I prayed last night…Oh God, help me see her, love her…like her. I have opportunity even as I type this…she is waking, she calling to me. She is breaking into my oh-so-precious space I call “my own.” But the call I need to remember that my life is not my own as I follow Christ. And that to be in the Kingdom is a call to go deeper than I want, on terms I don’t want to sign off on. Sometimes, I simply don’t want to be transformed at that deeper place. I wish to stay disengaged, aloof at my computer while she eats, reading a book on the ground while she plays. As I offer my will in submission to the One who is bringing the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth, I find I am moving, ironically, into childlikeness…and away from childishness.

Oh, God have mercy on me.

Where is it that God is asking you to replace your childish attitude with a childlike heart?