Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Yearning to See Micah

Over the past few weeks, Heather and I have tried to put into words our emotions as we’ve passed the two-year anniversary of Micah’s death. Heather has repeatedly shared with me that she can’t seem to find the right words to describe her emotions. Certainly we “miss” Micah. But the gray heaviness in heart that is felt in grief is more than just “missing” our son.

We most often use the term “miss” in normal, even mundane, life circumstances. We tell others that we “missed” a sale at the store or “missed” the end to a great sports game or we “missed” a friend while away on a trip. To “miss” is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “to notice the absence or loss of” or “to regret the absence or loss of.” The word seems to connote pain in separation without, necessarily, the suggestion that the person exhibiting the feeling has any hope of any future reunion with the object of their affection.

While Heather and I are agreed that there doesn’t seem to be a word in the English language close enough to our emotion, I have settled, at least for now, on saying that I yearn for Micah’s presence. “Yearning,” is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a deep longing, especially when accompanied by tenderness or sadness.” Yearning suggests an intense desire for the object of affection. With yearning, one would not have the desire if one did not at least hold out hope that one’s yearning will eventually be satisfied.

In Philippians 1:8, Paul tells the church at Philippi that he “yearns for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” According to a blog written by John Kitchen, the original Greek word translated as “yearn” in this passage is a compound word. According to Kitchen, “…the root describes desire, anxiety, a wish for or to strive after something. The prefix intensifies the meaning so that the resulting word describes a deep, earnest affection for or longing after someone.” Just as Paul yearned to see his flock in Philippi, we yearn to see our oldest son Micah again.

I think the temptation for some parents who are in our position would be to take any means necessary to avoid the pain of “missing” your child. That is, to focus our energies solely on our other children or other sources of distraction in order to minimize the pain of “missing” their child. If life were lived outside the control of a sovereign and loving God who controls and directs everything in our lives, then the logical course of action would be to physically bury your dead child and then, for the rest of your earthly existence, take whatever means necessary to mentally bury the memory of your child as well. The pain of “missing” your child would be so great that the best course of action would be to bury all of our memories in a black blanket of repression, and to pretend, against all reason, that one’s now-deceased child never existed. One would need to reject, as a mistake, any fleeting thoughts of the child.

But rather than repress the memory of Micah, we daily keep our memory of Micah alive not only because we treasure the time we had together on earth, but also because we know we will see him again. In thinking about how to properly honor Micah on his “home-going day,” a counselor encouraged us to do those things as a family that we would be doing now if Micah were still with us. Rather than seeking comfort “outside” of our grief, I appreciated how our counselor encouraged us to enter “inside” the grief. Christians can enter into grief boldly and fully, knowing that despite the pain associated with the present separation from our loved ones, we can look forward to how life’s story will end. The pain of “missing” our son is great, but the yearning for him seems to grow deeper every day.

Appropriately, the Greek word used in Philippians 1:8 is also used by Paul in the fifth chapter of 2 Corinthians. There, Paul is referring to the believer’s hope in Heaven. “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-2).

Like Paul, we are yearning for heaven, where we will be clothed with our heavenly bodies and where we will see our son again. As Christians, we don’t just live in the present, living our lives in ways to repress painful memories of the past. We can honestly enter into the painful grief of remembering the past because we know what is to come in our future.

1 comment:

  1. hey cory, this is paul cho. i was horrified when i first heard the news, and it is no less so now. hope you and your family are well.