Saturday, November 21, 2009

Life lessons

I sat in the corner of the pew and watched, uncertain of my feelings, uncertain about what I should feel. People came in and formed a line, some that I knew, many that I didn't, and the gentle buzz of quiet, restrained voices swirled somewhere overhead. I let it float on without any contribution, alone in my thoughts.

I was glad for the corner, grateful for the solidity of the wood against my back, uncomfortably aware of the contrast between the strength behind me and the unsteadiness inside of me.

It was Grandpa's Memorial Service. And I had much to think about, and much to learn.

Grandma was a picture of God's grace. Standing up in front, next to Grandpa's picture— alone. Gently, graciously speaking to every person in the room— alone. Smiling, hugging, reminiscing— alone.

I watched all that aloneness, felt the wrench in my throat grow stronger and the emptiness in my stomach grow heavier. I watched and felt and thought… and I learned.

I learned the truth in C. S. Lewis' statement that "to love at all is to be vulnerable." The more I love people, the more I will hurt, the more they will be able to hurt me. The depth of Grandma's love for Grandpa is the same depth of hurt she experiences in his death. The people I love the most will hurt me the most. Fact of life. And learning to love is not easy.

But I also realized, more deeply than ever before, just how vitally important it is to find my full, complete satisfaction in Christ.

Jesus is the reason that Grandma could smile, and hug, and graciously receive others into her arms in the face of Grandpa's death. They were married nearly 60 years. They were everything to each other, and did everything together. He was the love of her life. And yet, she found her joy and satisfaction in Jesus Christ, not in her marriage, or his affirmation, or anything else.

In short, I learned that only way to really love a person is to find my full, complete satisfaction in Christ first. That's the only way to handle hurt, the only way to keep on loving when I don't feel like it, the only way overcome differences.

Sometimes this is hard. Actually, it's hard a lot of times. But God is faithful ALL the time, and sufficient ALL the time, and good ALL the time. And watching Grandma, I remembered the truth in these statements.

Love is not duty for duty's sake or right for right's sake. It is not a resolute abandoning of one's own good with a view solely for the good of the other person. It is first a deeply satisfying experience of the fullness of God's grace, then a doubly satisfying experience of sharing that grace with another person. - John Piper, Desiring God

I'd forgotten that death taught lessons like this.


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