I heard him on skype from the other side of the wall, working it through one word and step at a time. Tones were hushed and kind.
I was listening to our role in a ministry die.
Emails came from across the ocean, messages cloaked in vagaries, hurts hidden between the lines.
I read how a church would die.
Texts buzzed during a field meeting, phone calls and questions and worried prayers. We knew before we knew. A heart and mind that couldn’t compromise.
A woman like me, who died.
Death comes in so many forms doesn’t it? The death of dreams and visions, hopes and futures. The death of relationships and communities, marriages and ministries. The death of beloveds: friends and colleagues, mentors and parents.
We’ve known and heard it said a thousand times, how death is not how things were supposed to be. How Jesus wept over Lazarus, over the human condition, over the sorrow and blame heaped at His feet. And even still, how death is not the end, but rather like an overture: a beginning. “Sunday’s coming,” we are quick to remind ourselves.
We still have a Good Friday, a Holy Saturday. We still have the days between death and resurrection, the days where grief is our language and only God knows what’s next. The days where the story is finished and a new one has not yet begun. These are days of pain, of lament, of a crying out, and yes: even of blame laid down at His feet.
He knows. Oh, yes. He knows.
He knows we will see lives lost and hope falter. He knows we will witness the wages of sin, the dark hold of the grave. He knows even we (maybe especially we) are not immune to the curses of the fall, the temptations of the heart, the trials of the mind.
Oh death, how frequently we still feel your sting; how we miss the gifts you have stolen.
Sufjan Steven’s album Carrie and Lowell is an ode to the mother he lost twice over, and in Death with Dignity he asks, “What is that song you sing for the dead?”
We sang praise songs at my friend’s funeral; songs of peace, of grace, even of triumph. He is mighty to save, we remembered. He gives and takes away, we declared.
And yet, on that day, I recognized a sort of salvation that does not always look how we think it should.
Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” Psalm 102:18–20
Oh yes, my confidence wanted to declare, “You rose and conquered the grave.”
But not today.
Not till Sunday.
So what is the song you sing for the dead? What are the scriptures and prayers you keep with you when confronted with death? Is it Good Friday where you are? The Holy Saturday of despair? Let us sit with you and wait… for Sunday.
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