Leaves from the cemetery still clung to my shoes. The dried leaves were a sobering reminder of the graveside service I led in the autumn morning mist two days ago. Members of a large extended family wept as they watched the casket of a young husband and father slowly descend below the frost line while random snowflakes drifted down.
I wiped the leaves off as I dressed for another funeral. This funeral was different, though. I was not leading, but attending this one. It was for a friend. A man whose company was never boring. A good man who left behind a wife and four kids. A man who was younger than me. I knew I would see a number of old friends at the service—not how I would choose to catch up with relationships.
I have rubbed shoulders with grief too many times in the past year. A high school basketball star. A twenty one year old man who loved everything outdoors. A seventy eight year old woman who lived a great life. A nineteen year old who was tortured by the injustice of this world. The list is long. Some I never knew. Some whose smiles were familiar.
America is one of the few societies where death is viewed as optional. We attempt to distance ourselves from any reminders of our own mortality. This is not so convenient when your calling is helping people deal with the loss they thought they could ignore. While grief is part of the fabric of being a pastor, it is about more than my job. I do not practice professional detachment. I weep with those who weep. I wear their hurt. Their grief burrows deep in my soul.
Lest you think I am descending into a death spiral of depression, let me say this—I experience peace in the midst of pain and hope in the presence of loss. I feel life in the face of death. How is this possible? Because I know a God that transcends death. He is larger than life, and more important, He is larger than death.
Reminders of our transience are as consistent as interstate mile markers. If a heart beats in your chest, your deepest fears remind you that something outside of your influence makes that heart beat again and again. In your most honest moments, you know you are not in control. This realization can lead to fear or hope. Hope shapes me because I know the One who powers my heart. One day, He will no longer cause my heart to pulse and I am OK with that. I know Him now and I will know Him face to face then.
Death is a door we walk through, not a wall we run into. In our society, we tend to treat death as termination -- the end of everything. In reality, our greatest fantasy is true. We are immortal. Our souls exist forever. The only question is one of location. Either in the presence of the One who knows you or outside of the presence of the One you never knew.
Hope is about more than change or the promises of a political candidate. It rests in the reality of an eternity that possesses us. A God who longs for us. A Savior who pursues us. What beats in your chest? Hope or fear? Hope is about home. It is about Someone who loves you now and desires that you would be with Him forever. If fear haunts you, don’t ignore it. Fear can lead you to truth and truth can bring you to hope and hope can bring you home.
© 2010 Kevin Feldotto
© 2010 Kevin Feldotto