Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sorrow is the Sea

In "Lament for a Son," Nicholas Wolterstorff grieves the death of his son, Eric, who died in a mountain climbing accident. About his new life of living in this grief, Wolterstoff says,

“Something is over. In the deepest levels of my existence something is finished, done.…Especially in places where he and I were together this sense of something being over washes over me. It happens not so much as home, but other places. A moment in our lives together of special warmth and intimacy and vividness, a moment when I specially prized him, a moment of hope and expectancy and openness to the future: I remember the moment. But instead of lines of memory leading up to his life in the present, they all enter a place of cold inky blackness and never come out. The book slams shut. The story stops, it doesn’t finish. The future closes, the hopes get crushed. ..Sometimes I think that happiness is over for me. I look at photos of the past and immediately comes the thought; that’s when we were still happy. But I can still laugh, so I guess that isn’t quite it. Perhaps what’s over is happiness as the fundamental tone of my existence. Now sorrow is that. Sorrow is no longer the islands but the sea.” Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son, P. 46-47.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fulling Trusting Jesus

In John 6, Jesus preached about the necessity of “drinking his blood” and “eating his flesh” in order to have eternal life. Many of those following Jesus stopped following Jesus because of this difficult teaching. Jesus’ teaching didn’t fit with who they thought Jesus was or should be. Maybe they were hoping that Jesus would be the political messiah. Or maybe they felt that he should be just a moral teacher, not someone that claimed to be God. In any event, Jesus’ teachings didn’t make sense to them, and so they turned away.

For me, as for Peter, only Jesus is trustworthy. When Jesus asks the disciples if they, too, want to turn away, Peter responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68. In my life, the Lord has again and again demonstrated that He is worthy of my trust. Dr. Larry Crab says, “When the lights go out, when our dreams shatter and there’s no way to piece them back together, that’s when our questions are most likely to change. No longer do we ask, “Am I right?” We realize we can’t be right enough to make things happen as we want. Instead we ask, “Whom do I trust?” Larry Crabb, Connecting (Word, 1997), 115.

In Matthew 14, Peter walks out on the water, despite the fact that Peter had no other earthly reason for trusting that Jesus would keep his head above water. Jehu Thomas Burton asks, “When we are at the end of our rope and the only remaining option is to trust Christ, will we step out? ...God wants to bring us to the point where there is no alternative but to trust Him… He desires for each of us to fall back on His arms.” Jehu Thomas Burton, Trusting God through Tears (Baker, 2000), 104.

Micah’s death has upped the ante. There’s no way to diversify the risk. We are “all in.” Not just me, and not just Micah, but all that Heather and I had hoped for in a lifetime with our son. All of that is vested in our trust of Jesus. We have no where else to turn; our only hope is trusting in Jesus.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Micah's Smile

If this is how wide Micah's smile is on a nice spring day with his parents, how much wider is his smile now that he is in the midst of his Savior?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More on Purpose

I've thought a significant amount about God's purposes for Micah. While I will never know all of the purposes God accomplished through Micah, I know I should not underestimate the purposes he successfully accomplished.

Lorraine Boettner says, “Clearly, accomplishment in life cannot be measured in terms of years alone. It often happens that those that die young have accomplished more than others who live to old age. Even infants, who sometimes have been with their parents only a few days, or even hours, may leave profound influences that change the entire course of the life of the family. And undoubtedly, from the Divine viewpoint, the specific purpose for which they were sent into the world was accomplished. It is our right to neither to end life prematurely, or to insist on its extension beyond the mark that God has set for it.” Lorraine Boettner, Immortality (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1975).

In his funeral meditation for Owen Schramek, Pastor John Piper similarly noted that God can work great purposes in each and every life, regardless of how long that life is on earth. “God's designs for Owen were decided before he was born. He would exist for the glory of God. Ten minutes of that work was on the earth. The rest will be in heaven. None of us can even begin to estimate the magnitude of either. Who knows what has been set in motion on earth by the birth and death and life of Owen Shramek. It would be wild and unwarranted folly to think he has not changed the world.”

While I know I will never know all of God’s purposes for Micah, I think it is permissible to guess what some of them could be.

1. Micah's death drove us to our knees

A friend told me yesterday at lunch that Micah's death shattered his conception that tragedy and heartbreak is what happens to people outside of our "bubble"--these things might happen in the Middle East or Haiti, but not to us. When tragedy like this happens, our only response is to cry out to God in pain. Our friends and family--and so many kind and generous people who didn't know us beforehand--have been heartbroken for us.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." Matthew 5:3-4. To the extent that people have trusted more in Christ, or were drawn closer to God, or who have cried out to God in tears, or even those who have asked difficult questions of God for the first time, than Micah’s short life served a very noble purpose.

2. Micah's funeral gave glory to God, not anyone else

Could it be that, in some way, Micah’s short life actually made his funeral MORE purposeful? For every one person that might be positively impacted by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, there might be another person who was negatively impacted by our sin. For example, if it were my funeral, my funeral would be too much about me, and not enough about God. The fact that none of us were able to know Micah on earth as an adult made his funeral service about God, without having Micah himself in the way. God created and sustained Micah, caused Micah to breath and sleep and giggle on this earth for about 9 months, and then to take his last breath. And then God, in His grace, saved Micah eternally. It is only fitting that Micah's funeral was about God, and not about Micah. So it should be with all of our funerals.

3. Micah's death points to the gift of free salvation.

Ephesians 2:8,9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Just as Micah's funeral was more purposeful, so also is his salvation a testament to God's saving work on the cross. There was nothing that Micah did to earn his salvation. But neither is there for anyone else. What a better place to display the awesomeness of the gift of salvation than an infant's funeral.

4. Micah's death puts parenting, and everything else in life, in perspective

For so many friends of ours who attended the funeral, parenting is such a big deal. Having children of their own, they were able to empathize with our deep grief. And for them to see our loss is so significant because for them, as it was for us, the worst thing that could possibly happen in our lives. As much as we try to be good parents, we cannot control children falling out of chairs and pneumonia and the attention and care of doctors or emergency responders. God is in control, and his ways are not our ways. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, says the Lord." Isaiah 55:8. While good parenting is vitally important, I think that Micah's death is a reflection of the fact that God's eternal purposes outweigh other good things, such as good parenting. I pray that Micah's death reminds us constantly of the centrality of God in all things.

God's purposes for Micah are found in the summation of all the God-honoring things that have come about in our lives by reason of Micah’s short, sweet life and sudden, unexpected death. As far as I can tell, Micah's legacy is that our life is not about us, about our good deeds or our bad deeds, about our accomplishments or about the family we come from. Our purpose, our reason for existence, lies in God alone.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Imagining Micah & Me

Following Micah’s death, I have spent a considerable amount of time, and space on this blog, imagining what our life would be like now if Micah were still with us. I’ve pictured scenes from the life that I thought I would have with my son. I don’t think that my imagination will ever stop. If the Lord sees fit to have us continue in this life, I think I’ll always consider what life would be like at that point in time with Micah. We can look ahead and miss those first days of school, or playing with his little brother in the backyard, or perhaps playing right field or point guard or left wing.

In C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed, Lewis noted how his deceased wife would have disapproved of Lewis’ ongoing practice of projecting what “H” (his wife) would be doing now, if she were still with him. Lewis noted that, the longer he kept up his practice of projecting what “H” would say now or do now, the greater the disparity between the “real” H and the “imaginary” H—the wife that he had created in his imagination.

Of course, our situation is different. While Lewis knew “H” as his wife, we never knew our son as a grown adult. We weren’t blessed with the opportunity to know the sound of his voice, the way he interacted with others, what he desired or what he looked like. I know he likes cartoons, but which ones are his favorites? He loves to eat, but what is his favorite ice cream flavor? I would throw soft balls his way, but I couldn’t determine whether he was left-handed or right-handed. Does he prefer to swim, or skate, or run, …or maybe just sing? Our love for our son is certain; what Micah Robert Wessman is like, as a boy and as a man, are merely abstract projections for us on this side of eternity.

The stalwart truth of God’s sovereignty takes the steam out of my imaginations of the life I wanted with my son. God ordained the number of Micah’s days on this earth, and his days were numbered just less than 9 months. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16. We can say with certainty that God never created Micah to be with his parents and his little brother all at the same time. Before Micah was conceived, it was certain that would never be such a family picture.

But just as Psalm 139:16 states that God did not ordain our family to be together, so also scripture gives me the opportunity to imagine – not in what I have Lost but to imagine what my life with Micah WILL BE on the New Earth. My imagination seems better served to imagine what it will be like to hold my son, at long last, when I see him again on the New Earth.
In Revelation 21, we are told about the New Jerusalem. “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” While we can’t realistically say that we know what he would be doing with us NOW (on our earthly life during our earthly existence), my imagination allows me some foretaste as to what my life will be like with Micah for all eternity.

In the movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” the Jesus character comes upon his mother, Mary, as he is carrying his cross toward Golgatha. The pain of her son’s inevitable death is etched on Mary’s face. Jesus looks at his mother and promises her, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5). Our living hope is that Jesus has made all things new, and is continually making all things new, including the death of a little boy---by his death and resurrection. We can cry in hope because of the hope that God will redeem it all in the end. By making “all things new,” I believe that EVERYTHING will be made up for: every lost embrace, every lost look, every laugh of my little boy that I didn’t hear; every meal together; every lost holiday, birth day party; all those lost Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners; each of those days I would have taken him to school, to baseball or band practice; even those high school days when he wanted nothing to do with his parents; all these days, all these moment will be redeemed in the end.

After Steve Curtis Chapman lost his daughter Maria Sue in a tragic accident, pastor Greg Laurie sent a note to Chapman saying, “Maria Sue is a bigger part of your future than she is of your past.” I pray that my imagination be used not mainly to mourn what was lost and was never ordained to be, but to point me toward my future eternal life with my son Micah.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Gift Unopened

A poem by Micah's Uncle Reed and Aunt Rachael:

Micah we wanted to write you
So we wrote a little poem
To tell you how we’re feeling
Your first Christmas at home

Your parents would have told you
About this Christmas story
How two-thousand years ago
Jesus left his seat of glory

And in a cold manger born
Such humble state begun
From angels, kings, and shepherds
His high praises were sung

This Jesus grew up, you would learn
He was no normal man.
Even prophets of old foretold
He’s part of a sovereign plan.

Your parents would have told you
Bedtime stories for sure
About amazing miracles
How He was perfect and pure

And what significance to learn
Payment of sins He sought
Unless He died and rose again
Christmas is for naught.

Like a lamb on to slaughter
On Calvary’s hill you’d find
He took our sins for himself
And He had you in mind.

By now you know the whole story
Clearly you now can see
I’m sure Jesus has told you
As you sit upon his knee

For being in God’s presence
To what can we compare?
There’s nothing quite like it
I’m sure you’re now aware.

We’ve opened gifts this Christmas day
But there’s a sad sight to see
One gift remains unopened
Laying under the tree

Amidst the bows and paper
A beautiful package still lay
Written in fine letters
“To Micah” does it say

We certainly do miss you
To see that big bright smile
To watch you open your gift
And giggle for a while

But the giggle we imagine
Is nothing really like
The Jesus inspired giggle
To Joy’s no end delight

It makes that gift unopened
Seem pale, old and small
For even as we speak
You’re having the best Christmas of us all.

So as we sit and ponder
That last gift under the tree
It makes our hearts hurt
But there’s great hope for eternity.