Letting go of comfort

pexels-photo-459059

My friend Anna got married two days before Christmas. We sat in a cafe one Saturday in November and she told me of her wedding plans. Quietly, I sipped my coffee and listened, sort of wishing I had been invited. After John’s funeral I wanted, for some reason, to attend a wedding and remember what it was like to celebrate happy things. Am I wrong to say there is no happiness in death?

The following day, Anna asked me to play violin in her ceremony. So there I was, two days before Christmas playing music and feeling so much happiness. The song Anna chose for us to play was called “Shall not Want” by Audrey Assad. The lyrics begin,

From the love of my own comfort

From the fear of having nothing

From a life of worldly passions

Deliver me O God

As we played I thought of how everyone strives for comfort. Even me. Comfort is something I love, maybe even idolize.  I believe I hold tightly to comfortable things in the uncertainty of tomorrow. But then again, comfort is overrated.  I almost feel as if God is calling me to give up my life of comfort in this new year.

It’s sort of liberating to do the things I always thought of doing but failed to do because they lingered outside of what I deemed comfortable. Good things, of course, like praying for someone aloud, like buying a bowl of soup for a homeless man, like giving more that I feel obliged. These are all uncomfortable things but they involve living for the God of all comfort in a selfless and radical manner.

Last week in Virginia I found myself hesitating when God asked me to give double the cost of the conference to the Richmond church. I reluctantly penned my name in my check book and dropped the check into the offering box.

When I got home from the conference there was a letter sitting on my desk. Inside was a check from Anna for playing in her wedding. I really hadn’t expected her to pay me and to my astonishment the amount was exactly what I’d given extra in Richmond.  I began to realize that living comfortably is really overrated, especially when we serve the God of all things.

Something else I find uncomfortable is losing a friend. And even more so, seeing the ramifications of that lost friend, the hurting ones who miss him most. The aftermath is far more than uncomfortable to watch. It’s disturbing. But God has called me out of my comfortable space. I turn the page and see that this book of life has more characters that need love and comfort than I do.

My prayer is for God to deliver me from a love of my own comfort and to guide me through life’s desserts and valleys with a faith so strong I don’t need to rely on the comforts of this world.

Advertisements

Good Morning December

pexels-photo-533925

This December has been a weird one. Since we lost Johnny in October, I feel as if the months are drifting by, unnoticed. Or maybe this is just me having to grow-up much faster than I anticipated.

December makes me feel like a kid again, especially now that I’m out of school and back in Indianapolis. The city transforms with lights and trees and decorations. The sky dusts the naked trees with snow. I sit in my living room and gaze through foggy windows watching a mesmerizing snowfall. Why is it that year after year the first snow never fails to leave me speechless? But something is missing. This year will be different because we’ve lost someone.

I think of Johnny’s sisters coming home for Christmas and how I will want to cry with them. I cry with his best friend as we write cards of condolences to comfort friends in this holiday season. It has been two months since Johnny passed away and the absence of our dear friend is still surreal.  I begin to wonder if the human mind can ever fully comprehend death.

When I wake up to a new day, with fresh thoughts of grief and sorrow I simply rise and say “Good morning December. Let’s get through this together.” For December is not just a month in the year. If December were a character in a story he’d be tall and burly with a fur hat and wide leather boots, and deep eyes that tell stories of Christmases gone by.

I know I promised to write about something new, to leave the subject of death alone and blog about a more vibrant topic. But, try telling that to the bare trees and the empty cornfields and to the frozen earth where the grass is turning brown. Death is ever present on this side of heaven.

I feel as if December is mourning John’s death too. The stale air, the dead trees, the blood stained sky above a cold morning sunrise. Together we grieve.

And yet . . . together we look to the Lord to bring us through these dark valleys and grant us rest in green pastures.

Death, a path we all must take

pexels-photo-373533

It hit me yesterday. Just plain sadness. So I sat there and let it wash over me, refusing to fight, hide or minimize it.

Sadness comes to me in moments when I think of John and how he’s gone. In these moments I ponder where he is and what he’s doing. I silently weep and admit he is definitely enjoying life in heaven worshiping God, but I wonder what that looks like. Why am I saddened by this? Maybe because it’s so difficult to understand.

***

It’s another Friday on this side of heaven, and I’m determined to write about a new subject. . . Life.

Lately I’ve focused primarily on my body and not on my soul. As the thought of death has been haunting me these last two months, I feel a sense of frustration that I’ve only been thinking of death as the end of all things and not a mere transition from physical to spiritual life. My friend expressed some similar fears. She brought up C.S. Lewis and his series the Chronicles of Narnia, a story where children find a magical world by climbing through a wardrobe.

“This life is like the wardrobe, and Narnia is like heaven,” she told me. “We are just passing through.” We smiled at each other in spite of our fears.  I have to admit, no matter how you put it, death is still difficult to understand.

Last Sunday I watched The Lord of the Rings. This movie alone reminds me of Johnny. We watched it a lot when we were kids, acting out scenes and trading playing cards. One piece of dialogue in the movie helped me see life in a new way.

Pippin: I never thought it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey does not end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take… The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back and all turns to silver glass… And then you see it…
Pippin: What, Gandalf? See what?
Gandalf: White shores… And beyond… A far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: Well, that isn’t so bad.
Gandalf: No… No, it isn’t.

Okay, I’ve definitely deemed myself a homeschooler by quoting both C.S. Lewis and Tolkien in the same blog post, but nonetheless I am resolved to focus not on death, but on life. The life to come, the life Johnny is living now, and the life I am commissioned to live on this side of heaven until my new journey begins.