The phone brings me out of that place between sleep and being awake…I turn to my right…my wife and both look at the clock…5:30am. Too early for a phone call…unless of course it is one of those phone calls. ‘Uh oh”, my wife says ominously as she arrives out of the same in-between place.
I answer the phone “Hello Joshua here”, trying to eliminate all vestiges of sleep, Is it one of those phone calls? It is my Father, my Mother? My wife and I are at an unusual stage of life…a place where we no the approaching storm of losing our parents is not far away. It was not my Mother, it was my Father, but it was one of those phone calls.
“Hi Joshua, it is Don here”.
My mind races…my wife’s Uncle…He tells me what I did not expect, what I did not want to here, what no married man ever wants to here, that the Father of your wife is about to die. “But he is never sick, he never gets sick!
Turns out that I was wrong, my wife was wrong, and 3o minutes after the phone call, my wife receives another call… Father in law is no longer sick. My wife turns to me with sad and quiet eyes and with an even quieter voice says
“My Dad is Dead”.
Four words…four short words…yet these words scream into my heart.
The next two days are a blur, services, sermons, leading the music, phone calls, booking flights, funeral directors…and there is something else…actually someone else…someone who is constant…who is always present…amidst the shock, the surreality, the tears, the anger, the questions…who is present amidst a broken messy humanity…
I do a lot of funerals. When I stand before a grieving family, my heart would love to be able to shield people from the pain that comes from the reality of living in a cursed world. I would love to able to tell them, that they are invincible and nothing will hurt them. I would love to be able to say to them “It’s OK” I would love to be able to give them the reason why? I can do none of these things. But what I can do and endeavour to do is point them to the one who does know why? I point out to them to the God to whom we can go to, the God who can give us hope, the God who gives us hope in world that delivers none. Yet God is the God to whom in my own grief I too must go to. So I go…I run…I cling!
Yesterday I turned to Revelation 7:9-13
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”