Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Monday, October 29, 2012
Last Saturday, Heather and I hosted our annual chili lunch in honor of Micah's birthday. (Micah will turn 4 years tomorrow, on the 30th). In each of the past 4 years, we have hosted an informal chili lunch with friends and family at Nokomis Community Center in Minneapolis. As I have done in each of the past four years, I provided everyone with a brief update on what the Lord has been doing in our lives and through the ministry to which he has called us.
MICAH WESSMAN FOUNDATION & HOPE FOR THE MOURNING
In December of 2009, Heather and I started a nonprofit called “the Micah Wessman Foundation.” The purpose of the foundation is to provide Christ-centered resources and practical assistance to parents who are grieving the death of an infant or young child. In October of last year, we launched a website called “Hope for the Mourning,” which provides Biblical teaching about suffering, infant salvation as well as how friends and family members can support parents grieving the death of a young child or infant. www.hopeforthemourning.com Among other resources, the webpage has a place for visitors to provide us with the contact information for parents who are grieving the death of a young child.
Since January 1 of this year, we have sent out a total of 47 care packages to 47 grieving families. These care packages typically include three books written from a Christian perspective, some additional resources, and in some cases, restaurant gift cards. While we learned of many of these grieving parents through word of mouth or obituary notices, many of these came to us through the website. In fact, we have sent care packages to India, England, and Trinidad. We have been able to correspond and interact with many of these grieving parents, especially those who live in the Twin Cities. Several of the families who received care packages were at our chili lunch.
Earlier this month, a group of 8 friends and family members agreed to become part of the “Hope for the Mourning” running team. The 8 of us competed in the Twin Cities 10 Mile race. Each of the 8 runners agreed to find sponsors from friends, family and coworkers to raise at least $500 for Hope for the Mourning. I’m pleased to report that we collectively did more than twice that; to date, we have received more than $8,500 in pledges. Many of you pledged amounts for Hope for the Mourning. We are so grateful for how you have allowed us to minister to other grieving parents. The average cost per care package is more than $100, and so we appreciate how you have helped us offset the significant costs associated with this care package ministry.
PURPOSE OF THE LUNCH
Ultimately, however, the purpose of our getting together last Saturday is not about fundraising; it was not even about Hope for the Mourning or the Micah Wessman Foundation. It was about our son's birthday, and about celebrating the blessing of his short life, about sharing in the unbelievable grief and shock of his sudden death, and fellowshipping with our friends and family members who have provided us with so much support through these past 3-plus years. While we are so grateful and thankful for your support, we get together with our friends and family because we can't be physically present with our own son on his birthday. How we wish things were different-- how we wish we could celebrate Micah's birthday with him, in person, in a more conventional fashion. Perhaps at a greasy pizza restaurant with cake, ice cream and birthday hats? How we miss our Micah.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Death seems everywhere these days. A neighbor of ours, a mother with young children, is entering her last days in her battle with cancer. Two sets of families from church lost adult children this week; two more families from church have sick infants on the brink of eternity. So how should we view this event that, unless the Lord returns soon, is certain to occur to each and of us?
About death, Germon theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence.
Whether we are young or old makes no difference. What are twenty or thirty or fifty years in the sight of God? And which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal? That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up--that is for young and old alike alike to think about. Why are we so afraid when we think about death?...Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God's Word. Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that is is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace.
How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world? Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that it can transform death." Eric Metaxas, Bonhoffer, page 531.
It was faith that allowed Bonhoeffer to go calmly to Hitler's gallows in 1945. Bonhoeffer was certain of what was to meet him on the "other side." I pray that each of us would similarly strive to hold fast to the promises found in God's word so that, whether our illnesses are brief or extended, and whether we must endure our death or the deaths of loved ones, we would view the death of a Christian as "the mild, sweet & gentle" transition to eternity, where the currently unimaginable pleasures of God await those of us who are in Christ Jesus.
Bonhoeffer, Metaxes, Page 531
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Do we grieving parents make too big of a deal out of the deaths of our own children? Does God think that we grieve too much? Does our grief suggest that we have made idols out of our children?
God has created us so that, rather than being satisfied with lesser pleasures, our hearts will not experience real satisfaction until we experience God Himself. The Psalmist proclaims, "My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you." Psalm 63:5. But while we treasure God as our ultimate prize, we can enjoy the gifts that he gives, so long as that they are enjoyed as gifts from God, and not in competiton with Him. In a recent sermon, Bethlehem Seminary Professor Joe Rigney pointed out that we need not experience any "false guilt" for enjoying the gifts that God gives. Rigney cited Genesis 2:18, where God told Adam that he was going to make a helpmate for him, "because it is not good that the man should be alone." Even though God is Himself our ultimate satisfaction, God has deemed it good and right for us to enjoy the gifts he gives us here on earth, including marriage, children, family, friends, food, drink, sports, and other earthly endeavors. In enjoying any gift as a gift from God, we do not take away from our enjoyment and worship of God as our perfectly benevelent and omnipotent gift-giver; rather, such an attitude adds to our praise of God to the extent we recognize God's goodness in giving and our unworthiness in receiving.
C.S. Lewis once said, "Our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak." As grieving parents, if we try to minimize the paid of our own grief, we would have to ignore the very God-ordained affections built into our emotional and spiritual beings for our own children. More than that, we would cut off opportunities for the grace of God to fill the wounds of our life is we attempted to artificially limit the flow of grief coming from our own hearts. If we hold on to Christ, and to his promises, we need try to apologize or minimize our pain. There is no level of depth in grief that God's grace cannot rescue us from. The deeper the grief, the further down, and deeper in, God's love goes to reach us.
It has now been 3 years and 2 months since we lost Micah, and our grief extends to so many areas of our life. But God, who ordained for Micah's little life in the first place, doesn't want us to apologize or feel bad about our grief. Rather, he wants to salve the pain of grief in and through the various forms of grace he provides, so that we can stand amazed at the working of God, both in how He gave us our beautiful, precious oldest son, and in how He has comforted us since taking him away.