What Did You Expect? Further Thoughts When Life Sucks

What did you expect?  

When I was a kid, we never really knew what to expect at Christmas.  My mom and dad would always surprise us with what we didn’t expect.  We got some things we wanted but then there was always a few “surprises” thrown in.  My mom and dad still do that, and they’ve done it to Logan and Jay all their lives.  My parents never go by “the script.”

For followers and students, there is always an approved “script,” a plan to be followed.  The goal is to achieve a certification or a diploma and to do that, you must follow an approved plan.  Going back centuries, even back to the time of Jesus, the Jews and other faiths had plans for those desiring to be rabbis, teachers and Pharisees.  

Getting ordained comes with a plan too.  The appointment process in the UMC comes with a plan.  Churches and pastors know that plan and we follow it.  BUT there are times the plan goes off script - it doesn’t occur like we were told, like we thought, like we had expected.  McKee's Chapel UMC didn’t expect a change in pastor this year and I didn’t expect to be taking on the role of a pastor again, not just yet.  BUT a lot of things in our lives haven’t gone as planned either - it just simply happened to hit us where we DID NOT expect it...at church.

Since leaving the church we started in 2008, things for our family did not go along as planned.  We didn’t expect to leave Crossroads when we did.  We didn’t expect to leave Cumming FUMC when we did either, and we certainly didn’t have in our plans that my wife would get cancer and die from its effects.  And I didn’t expect I’d need to leave Bethelview UMC.

When Jesus tells his group of twelve, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword," (see all of Matthew 10:24-39) he is telling them NOT EXPECT an easy path when following Him.  EXPECT IT to be difficult.  Expect that other religious people and leaders will not understand and even fight with you.  Do not expect your family life to be a picture of ease.  Do not expect things to be peaceful either.  Do not expect to get help.  Do not expect that you’ll die with the most toys...in fact, don’t take any with you...when you die, nobody "wins."

Why would anyone choose this way?  Why would anyone choose this kind of life?  It sounds crazy!!  So why?  Well, they were Jews after all and they knew the Psalms and they would have known these words:

Taste and see that the Lord is good!  Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Ps 34:8)

So they had come to Jesus and tasted and seen that here is the Lord God of Israel revealed as Immanuel - God with us!  They tasted and saw and then they knew to EXPECT God would go with them and that all things may not be easy or simple or peaceful BUT all things would work for GOOD to those who love God!  As I wrote in "Life Sucks. Seek God.":

You and I have a choice...stop and go no further or take the step of faith and go after Jesus even when the script does not go as you thought it would.

Life Goes On Even In The Valley Of Suck

Today has been one year since Heather left us for what Tolkien termed, "the Undying Lands." It was an image Heather knew well and loved just as much.

Everyone grieves but everyone grieves differently. While there are many lessons of the valley of suck, maybe none is more startlingly clear than this one.  You might welcome the grief as you would a friend or companion or you may choose to defer to meet it until another day but rest assured, you will grieve.

When I look back, I know I began to grieve long before Heather died.  She helped me through it.  As I have read snippets from her journals, Heather was also grieving - she grieved she would leave her children and leave me. She grieved she might be a worthy example for us about faith.

The first? Tragically, we live in a world of death.  It cannot be avoided at this time.  It is our nature to die (though there is hope).  She did leave us behind and we three have grieved and do grieve and still we remember and we live.  This is what she would have wanted.

As for the second grief?  Yeah, she was MORE THAN ENOUGH.  She was always an example of faith in Jesus Christ and the promise of a new life and resurrection.

This day marks a year since her passing.  As I reflect, I think this will be the only time I will intentionally mark this as a special day.  Others may choose a different path.  I will continue to mark our anniversary, her birthday, and Mother's Day - these are days to remember the joy she brought and the life she lived.  I don't pass judgment on those who remember her and this day differently but this is my journey through the valley of suck, and I choose to give death no place of honor.

Heather died on a Sunday and it marks resurrection...a little Easter every week.  She is already in the company of the Saints and worships and prays continuously before her Lord.  She doesn't know pain any longer nor does she know grief.  I will remember her on Sundays when death gives way to new life.

And I will live.  I will love.  I will move forward.  There will be starts and stops along the way (I have experienced many) and I suspect, there will be more grief too.  But the valley of suck is NOT a road without end.  It is a journey for a time but not a journey for all time - this Jesus promised us when He told us He was "the Way."

A year ago, Heather lived. A year ago, Heather died. A year ago, in an instant, Heather passed from death to eternal life and she will NEVER know grief again.

That doesn't suck at all.

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