A Paradoxical Party

The wind blew through the coconut trees from the west, an indicator that November had arrived.

Tiny red and gold flowers lined the muddy trail I walked along. They only bloomed this time of year, almost as if they were in honor of the National Holiday that had dawned with the sunrise. It was still early in the morning, but already I could hear music and laughter coming from the village.

I stopped to greet my nearest neighbors. The women were busy over their cooking fires making their final preparations for the day. Then, I heard the church bell ring out in the distance, a signal for us all that the celebrations had begun.  

I weaved down the compacted earth path with my island friends. We stopped at a small gravestone near the beach. Each year, on the first of November, the nation gathered at the cemeteries. It was a day the country set apart to honor the dead, a chance to remember and reflect on the past. Tobacco smoke hung heavy in the air as people left lit cigarettes at the graves of their deceased.

The belief of the people was that their spirits wander on earth each year during this Holiday. Food was piled high on tables nearby for anyone, or any spirit, who might have wanted a snack. Flowers and streamers decorated the cement tomb markers—a sign that those who had passed on were not forgotten. A party at the cemetery; the irony was not lost on me. It was a juxtaposition of emotions, contrary to the expected. 

I sat on a hard bench and reminisced with a friend about those who had passed. I watched a young mother gently wipe the debris off the wooden cross of her loved one. She then placed a fragrant strand of flowers on top. A few tears rolled down her face. She wiped them away as an upbeat song played on the radio nearby. My heart became conflicted as I observed her actions. The idea of honoring life by throwing a graveside party was a new perspective for me, one that I had not entertained before. 

It struck me that this paradoxical situation, life and death mirroring each other, was an oddly fitting illustration of our life overseas. Our personal celebrations often died, buried amongst the busyness of cross-cultural living. New festive traditions replaced the old, causing the traditional habits to become deceased or too hard to recreate. The daily tasks of life drained our energy and left us with nothing extra to acknowledge a special occasion. Our own celebratory spirits were tamped down as our focus became to serve others and learn another culture. All of these struggles were real, and just like the mom whose personal sadness intermixed with the happiness of the day, our own circumstances often become entangled, leaving us with a complexity of emotions we could not easily navigate. 

Yet, it was as we sat in the coolness beneath the mango tree, with graves in front of us and a party all around us, that I was reminded of some of the best parties ever thrown, and the hope that they point us toward. There is always a reason to celebrate, even when the joy seems elusive or life seems overwhelming. We have more than a festive day each year at the cemetery to look forward to; we have the promise of the best party that is still to come!

Scripture is filled with many instances of celebrations. The Levitical feasts, the remembrance of Passover, and the musical ballads in Psalms. There was the week-long bash documented in the book of Ezra and even the well-known New Testament practice of communion. All were intended to reflect on God’s goodness and the promises He gave to His people. These celebrations we read about were not just feasts and galas that faded into the rest of the year after the last dish was washed. They were not traditions given to fill time. They were observances hinting at a greater truth. A narrative of a master plan, where God was and continues to be the main character.

These celebrations brought great anticipation and excitement for the future. They were reminders for God’s people that He was and still is waiting for us. His plan is not yet finished; the commencement has not begun. He has not yet arrived, but only because He is busy preparing for the most important affair that is about to start! Listen closely, the bell is about to be rung, and the Celebration will be ushered in for us. The greatest present will soon be given: He is coming back!

“This is the day which the Lord has made;

Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”- Psalm 188:24

 What does a day of celebration look like for your family? What can you do to set days apart in your family to make them feel celebratory?

Join us for the 2022 Velvet Ashes Online Retreat as we explore the desire for home. Together we’ll journey through the powerful pathway that Solomon’s temple provides for us today. We’ll invite the Holy Spirit to draw our heart’s into deeper connection with God. Retreat with the worldwide community April 22-24!

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.