This week, I've had the humbling priviledge of walking alongside a family who is journeying with a loved one in her last days on this side of the New Heaven and New Earth. In the midst of a week of celebration and gratitude (it is Thanksgiving week here in the United States), there are phone calls to the hospice, sleepless nights wondering if she is going to survive until the morning, and deep hope that they will have one more day with the light of this life still in the world.
The words that I keep coming back to in order to describe this time resonate around a theme: deep, humble, honest, grace, love, grief, beauty and glory.
There such honest grief here in this family, and a recognition that this pain is mingled with joy. No one is trying to pretend this isn't happening, or dealing with it in a detached, distanced way. No one has said, "Well, she's going to be in a better place."
While those may be effective and sometimes necessary coping strategies for some familes, for some people at one time or another, the hearts of everyone here are alive. Alive to God, alive to the risk of losing the one they love, alive to grief and possibility and laughter amidst deep pain.
As I look at the faces, particularly the face of this woman's daughter, I see the face of Christ. Jesus was honest in his grief—over Lazarus, yes, but also over Jerusalem, a broken, wayward city that wasn't what it should or could be. Death isn't what we are made for, it isn't part of the original plan, and as it comes in to steal, rob and destroy. And, yet, death isn't the reality of the people of God. For the Beloved (which is us), there is so much more, so much waiting for us that is beautiful, glorious, full of grace. We, like Jesus, have to walk through that valley of the shadow of death in order to get there, to be fully resurrected. And the rest of us have to wait on the other side of glory, giving our family members the grace of letting them go, and being plunged into the deep well of grief over that which isn't meant to be.
How can we possibly risk this? Even knowing what's on the other side, how can we choose to walk through this with our hearts wide open?
As I watch this family, and see the face of Christ in each of them, I realize that this reflection is the glory that is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 3:18. It is Christ within them, bearing them up, pouring out grace upon grace. And it is Christ sharing in their grief, as He knows and cares for every sorrow we have, weeping with us.
Grace, grief and glory. In this thin space between this world and the next, there is almost more beauty than my heart can handle. This is what it looks like to live with your heart fully alive, vulernable to the pains of the world and, more gloriously, to the life of Christ through you.
For this, to walk with this glory, pain and beauty, I am thankful.