Arriving, I drop immediately to my knees, instinctively brushing away the earth from carved stone. Outlining every word with my fingers I remember our baby boy. Re-membering our family…the entirety therein. We are all there together. All members.
Grass, earth, and smudge cover the piercing words set, now in stone.
I wipe clean every bit. Just like Jesus did for me.
Daddy jumps into help. Rushing to the car for liquid… let’s make it shine. No words exchanged, we both just knew. This was the earthly resting place of our son, it must be well kempt. Hands wiping carved granite, hearts beating both pain and praise.
Though set in stone, this is not the final word. Death. For us in Christ it is the doorway to resurrection. If we are wrong we are the laughing stock of the world, for certain. But, oh, if we are dead on…the greatest life of all awaits. Conquering death, by His death, we await resurrection life. Trusting that He wipes us clean…that which we feel is set in stone about us. Our shame, our failing, our inability to get it right, our secret envy, our addictions…not the final word for those in Christ. Death, defeated by death. The ironic wisdom of the Only Wise God.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
Sister meets brother…
…mere shadows of the meeting yet to come!
Praise be to God, did not one die…the other would not have lived…Trusting the mysteries of life and death in God. Pain and praise.
Family will be re-membered once again. Today we re-member to bring him near…just as we re-member His sacrifice to bring Him near in the Eucharist.
Thank you to all who helped make it possible to set these words in stone…
Death…then life! The order of the Kingdom.
It’s like a force field I am forcibly resisting. Though its power is greater than mine, I am strangely able to resist. Its as if it is calling me to open wide my hands, my arms outstretched and walk in…chest first.
The closer I get the more difficult it is to resist; yet resist I do. Usually we dive into things head first, right? But the sense I have is that I must go chest first. Maybe because it is there, within my chest, my heart resides.
Entering unabashed the force field of celebration feels edgy. I think I am engaging this moment to the extent I am able…but the call to enter joy with less hesitation remains. My power to resist comes from my head (maybe that, too, is why I cannot dive in…head first). There is a raw-ness to this force field of celebration. A letting go. An encounter this deep with joy feels so…intimate. God, close. Does not all joy which exists come from Him? From where else could joy originate? God is love, and can not the fullest of love produce joy? What would love be without joy? They cannot be separated.
So I use my head to fuel my chest. Rather than use my mind to resist movement, I engage it even more powerfully…I renew my mind with Truth and empower a movement better than intellect…yet fueled by it. My intellect will serve me, I will not serve it. The lies that joy is too childish, too dangerous, too out of touch….I wish to say “Silence!” But with the state this world is in, how dare I live in deep joy? Will I not be thought a fool?
My mind continues to hold me back from the force field…it believes it protects me.
Then I read this:
“Why would the world need more anger? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn’t rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring the fullest Light to all the world.” -Ann Voskamp
My head begins to believe and set free my chest to draw close. My arms flung open so my heart enters first (can it be any other way?). I entered pain with all my self, grieving clean I found a mending of soul. Why does joy seems scarier, more vulnerable? How do I enter without the suspicious mind…when will it end? When will the shoe drop? It always does. I lack abandon to God and to trust in His presence.
Then I remember King David, king of Israel, who, when the Ark of the Lord was finally brought back to Israel he “danced before the Lord with all his might” (2Sam.6:14). People were around, he had few garments on, if any, and danced with unashamed delight. So much so that his wife was thoroughly embarrassed! (apparently joy has been seen as childish & over the top for millennia). But David’s resists her shaming words to him and lets her know “I will become even more undignified than this!”
David entered the force field of celebration even when those closest to him remained outside. Arms flung open, joy embraced. Because isn’t this all about God anyways? Joy doesn’t call to us because it is good to have “positive thinking” (though it may be at times) or because it is good for our health (though it is). Joy calls because it asks us to forget ourselves and be enthralled with God who holds all reasons for joy and celebration. He knows us. He loves us. He, alone, can save us. He will never forsake us. He is the beginning and the end. These things remain true. And after all, His joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). With these things my mind is renewing, and rather than it holding me back it is fueling my chest forward…
I found this sermon on the internet yesterday. I had never heard it before, preached by the pastor of Church of the Resurrection out in D.C., not the one we attend. He heard of Jonan’s story last year and asked us if he could use his story in his sermon on suffering. We were in between period of Jonan’s life…and his New Life quickly approaching. We said sure, though we had never met, and still have not. I found the sermon, over a year later and listened. He is a great teacher and parses out faith in challenging times very well using the Gospel of Luke. He tells Jonan’s story. It is about 37 minutes long, so listen when you have the time to enjoy and be transformed by all of it. Listen Here
Also found…me, by Elsa in this video. I had put her in her crib under the mobile while I was scrubbing the bathroom the other day. I heard all sorts of noise coming from the room so I grabbed the camera and snuck on in…She was enjoying the company of the frog when I tried to start up the mobile…
Forever will Jan. 26thbe a most tender of days for me. The day Jonan Eilam was born. Sacrosanct. Never will that day pass without me breathing a bit more deeply; looking around at the world with a sober appreciation for life…and for the presence of God which fills it. Never.
Today, January 29th, is also seared into soul. The day we laid him in the ground. In the post On Grief and Celebration I recall the details and the pictures…I am thankful to live in a time when print and picture flow freely, despite the various damage they can do in other settings, they are helping me remember my son. I am thankful there will come a day when memory will no longer be needed. I will meet my son when I meet the Son.
Between me and that day lies death. The Great Divide.
Today at church I was swept into the musical portion. We have some talented folk at our church. On any given Sunday there could be a swooning set of strings, maybe a saxophone, even an accordion. Today the flute made an appearance as did my husband rockin’ the electric guitar. Perhaps, though, one of the most important contributions to me is made by the one who chooses the music…you know, feels the flow of what will unfold during the service and provide us the musical score. Music massages the soul and takes us places; the integrity of its compilation is vital for moving us toward God. Agreed, God can use many things to draw us unto himself, and we can choose to acknowledge His presence anywhere we find ourselves. But many times music just helps.
Often there are songs we sing that speak about rising from the grave. The pinnacle of the Christian faith. Not in a “Night of the Living Dead” sort of way, but in a Resurrection sort of way. The fact that Jesus has risen from the grave, gaining access for all who call on His name to have resurrection life. He conquered death by death, thus offering hope to us. There is a song called I Will Rise (listen here). The bridge goes like this:
And the grave is overwhelmed
He is risen from the grave
Before Jonan Eilam, lyrics like this were a great theological reality to sing of, but nothing that felt existentially relevant to my days. It meant that we no longer fear death as the ultimate separation from God; we can have salvation through Christ. Following Christ is different than every other religion on the globe by relying on grace through faith in Christ, rather than all the good we can do to outweigh the bad. This theology is good and something I could sing about with confidence and thankfulness…but now the lyrics ring anew.
We sang three songs today referencing overcoming the grave. As we sing of these things my soul stirred… I just visited a grave a few days ago… The reality (and need!) of overcoming the grave is relevant to my days. And I am not without Hope. As we drove into the cemetery grounds there was a peace amidst the fog that was around and within.
This was, after all, our first visit since the earth opened. Usually places like this bring unease, but there was beauty and precious space. I stood at the grave of my son…silence. What does one say at the tomb of him who grew in her womb?
Anticipating the need for ritual over words Elsa and I bought some beauty on our way. I also packed candles. We picked up Jeff from the train station and made haste to ensure daylight.
We lit the large candle first, signifying Gods presence. We have lit this exact candle for years, recording thankful days. Then Jeff and I laid two roses, one for each of us.
We laid Elsa’s rose for Jonan next. She does not know him now, but she will someday.
We then lit four candles, one for each person in our growing family. I named us each as we lit our candle. Thankful to God for our lives. Trusting Him with their end.
Tears. Prayers. Silence. Daylight fades into night…
Darkness falls; reminds us again of the Great Divide. That mysterious space. But the Light of God’s presence remains and we have hope that there is a Day yet to come. The words of the song we sang today, one year later, lift my eyes toward Him whose grave has already been opened.
You, oh Lord, have made a way
The great divide You heal
For when our hearts were far away
Your love went further still
Yes, your love goes further still
You alone can rescue, You alone can save
You alone can lift us from the grave
You came down to find us, led us out of death
To You alone belongs the highest praise
(lyrics by Matt Redman, You Alone Can Rescue, listen here)