Sunday, October 26, 2014

Remembering Micah on his 6th Birthday

Yesterday we held our annual chili lunch with friend and family in honor of Micah’s upcoming 6th birthday. We continue to be so grateful for friends and family who support us in our grief, as well as the Hope for the Mourning ministry. Every day, and particularly on special occassions such as Micah's birthday, we remember Micah for our benefit and the benefit of our living children who did not know Micah during his earthly lifetime. In remembering him, it is not as though we are “fighting” against God and trying to overcome God's plan. It is not as if God’s plan was to take Micah and undo some mistake or that (even worse) God couldn't control the pea that ultimately took his little life. God very much planned his life and his death. God’s plan was, and always has been, that he should live just 9 months, and then have his death impact us in numerous ways, some of which I anticipate will be revealed to us only many years from now. We therefore honor Micah, and God’s plan for Micah, in remembering Micah and in looking to the Lord for the purposes He seeks to accomplish through Micah's friends and family. For my part, while I have not forgotten Micah, I seemed to have forgotten some of the lessons that God taught us in the "early days" of our grief--in those first weeks and months following Micah’s death when all we could do was get out of bed and try to stay upright without falling over from the weakness induced by deep grief. For my part, I have lost that sense of dependency on us that is so crucial to walking, day by day, with our Lord. As we mark Micah's 6th birthday, I would like to honor him by remembering what God did through him initially, which was to induce a sense of utter dependendy upon God. Miicah’s story is essentially God’s story—they are one in the same. Since God took Micah, and as His creator He had the right to do so, we must look to the Lord and follow Him for what He sought to accomplish. While we are more than 5 years out now from his passing, we certainly don’t know many of the reasons, but I think we honor Micah, and his story, to the extent that our family remembers how God was sufficient in our times of our deepest sorrow and helplessness, and apply that sufficiency in our lives again today.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

On the 5th Anniversary

This weekend marks the 5th anniversary of Micah’s death and Homegoing to Heaven. While Heather and I are very busy between three living children, a busy law practice, and managing the Hope for the Mourning ministry, we continue to grieve Micah’s passing. On previous anniversaries of Micah’s death, I have put together poems and/or videos of Micah’s life, of our favorite memories, and his impact on us. These are all good and right ways to grieve his passing. We miss him beyond words. Heather has always said that “missing him” never quite captures the extent of loss. We would love to see him playing with his younger siblings, learning to read, and heading off to school. Would he look more like me or like Heather? Would he be a bookworm, like his brother Owen, a good golfer, like his brother Brendan, or have a non-stop motor, like his sister Kinsley? How would his presence impact others? We would gladly give all we have just to see him, as he is now, in Glory with our Lord. But I have become convinced that the main enduring legacy of Micah’s premature death is the need for us to be utterly dependent upon God and to pursue God beyond any other endeavor. In other words, we honor Micah most be ordering our love for Jesus, and our trust in His plan for our lives, ahead of our love for our oldest son. This past week, I spoke with a recently-bereaved mother, whom I met through the Hope for the Mourning website, about the premature death of her own son. We agreed that it is so very difficult to know how to learn to pray to God again after experiencing the “shell shock” of a huge unanswered prayer. In other words, why (and how) should we pray to a God who would not keep our children alive, despite our earnest prayers to that end? As we discussed, however, just because we don’t know why the Lord would chose to not answer that prayer does not mean that he doesn’t have a reason for the unanswered prayer. In order to pursue and hold fast to this line of hope, to believe it in your heart and not just your head, to trust in something that has no earthly evidence, we must take upon ourselves the daily discipline of placing one’s trust in Jesus for the granting of additional faith. Indeed, in order to endure all circumstances in life, we must rest completely on the goodness and mercy of God in providing us the faith necessary to trust in Him. Ironically, in order for fulfill Micah’s legacy, our lives must be less about Micah, and more about Jesus. I pray that my life would demonstrate that, and that other fellow grieving parents would take on themselves the cost of discipleship in following Christ.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Improper Concepts of Purpose

As I read through the crucifixion account again this past Easter week, I was struck by an aspect that I had not really previously paid much attention to. I was struck by how little Jesus' disciples understood the meaning of the cross, and, in light of that lack of understanding, their own level of agony as they seemed to grieve not only the sufferings of their teacher, but (seemingly) the also the death of their dreams. As they watched Jesus suffer and die, they had to grieve the loss of who they thought Jesus was and what he would do for them and for Israel. Of course, in hindsight, we can see how the disciples plainly missed so much of Jesus' teaching and prophesy about the purpose of His life, and the meaning of the cross. As a result of "missing" this teaching, the disciples were grieving. If they had understood Jesus teaching, and expected it, then they would have reacted much differently than how we see they reacted in the gospel accounts. Similar to Jesus's disciples, I wonder how much of my own life I "miss" when it comes to the proper understanding of the meaning of our sufferings. Certainly, we will never understand (at least not on this side of eternity), the meaning of all of our sufferings. But can we not just admit that we don't know all the purposes, and rather than assuming certain sufferings are "waste," live in the hope that no suffering is wasted for those who "are called according to His purpose?"

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Humility in Judging God

In his fantastic new book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Pastor Timothy Keller describes the shortcomings of the human mind to fully understand God's purposes, generally, and with regard to specific instances of suffering. He relays what scientists have commonly referred to as "the Butterfly Effect," which is the idea that a butterfly's path in one area of the world would ultimate impact weather patterns, which ultimately have a global impact. Similarly, the seemingly simple exercise of a ball rolling down a hill carries with it thousands of mathematical calculations as to the likelihood of where it will ultimately land. Given all of these complexities, how can we, mere human being, expect to understand all of God's ways? Keller writes, "Now, if even the effects of a butterfly's flight or the roll of a ball down a hill are too complex to calculate, how much less could any human being look at the tragic, seemingly "senseless" death of a young person and have any idea of what the effects in history will be? If an all-powerful and all-wise God were directing all of history with its infinite number of interactive events toward good ends, it would be folly to think we could look at any particular occurrence and understand a millionth of what it will bring about. The history-butterfly effect means that "only an omniscient mind could grasp the complexities of directing a world of free creatures toward..previsioned good goals...certainly many evils seem pointless and unnecessary to us--but we are simply not in a position to judge." Keller, page 101, quoting J.P. Moreland and W.L Craig. While I'd love to know what God has done through our son's death, I am beginning to realize just how daunting a task it is. We realize how much broader, and more infinite, are the branches of human relationships and interactions, and that God is omnipresent in all of them, working them for His ultimate glory.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Grieving Parent's Obedience

In Matthew 16, Jesus rebukes Peter for trying to suggest that Jesus should pursue anything other than to fulfill the Father’s calling for his life—a sacrificial death on the cross. Rather than calling us to a lap of luxury, Jesus tells Peter and those of us who have been called as His followers to “deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24). About this death, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die.” In becoming His disciples, we are called to suffer for Him. The “deaths” we must die are different for every believer. Those of us who are grieving the death of one of our children have a difficult cross to bear. As demonstrated in numerous instances throughout the gospels, Christ holds the power of life, death and even resurrection. Since we lost a child, we have had to come to grips with the fact that, while Jesus held the power to save our child at the very moment of our child’s death, he chose not to heal our child. Unlike many grieving parents who grieve the fact that God wasn’t strong enough to save their children, we trust that our child died not because God could not save the child, but because our child’s physical death is a means (albeit a nasty, heinous, terrible one) allowed in order to achieve much greater purposes. In trusting in this greater good, we have to pick up our cross, daily, by casting aside our own dreams for ourselves and our children, and instead obeying God’s promises that His purposes for our lives and our child’s (shortened) life will, in full view of eternity, far exceed our own expectations. Will you pick up your cross and carry it with me on your own road to Golgatha, regardless of where it might light, in the sure hope and certainty that it will be worth the cost, in the ultimate end?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Daily Disciplines and Eternal Consequences

In his short fantasy novel, “The Great Divorce” C.S. Lewis follows a man who is given the opportunity to travel to a fictitious “Heaven.” This “Heaven” includes both the saved (the “Solid People”) as well as the unsaved (“Ghosts,” who are residents of “the town” or Hell). In this fictional novel, even who are not saved are given the opportunity to visit this Heaven. Lewis, of course, tells his readers not to think that this conception of Heaven is in any way theologically-sound. The novel does provide us, however, with a great glimpse into a very basic (but often overlooked) aspect of our Christian lives-that is, how seemingly small decisions made every day will ultimately impact who we become, not only in this life but in eternity. In other words, every day decisions will ultimately impact our desires, our personality, and who it is that we become, in Christ. During one interaction between the main character and a member of the Solid People, we are told, “Not only this valley but all their earthly past will have been Heaven to those who are saved. Not only the twilight in that town, but all their life on Earth too, will then be seen by the damned to have been Hell. That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering ,”No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say, “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the qualify of Heaven; the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness.” C.S. Lewis, Great Divorce, Page 69. As we grieve the death of our child, will we renew ourselves, day after day, in the promises of Hope found in scripture so that, by reason of years of practice, it becomes second nature to us? Are we taking the necessary (seemingly insignificant) mundane steps to steep ourselves in the encouragement of fellow believers? As Lewis notes, the consequences of these daily decisions have eternal consequences.