As the Little Prince learned from the fox – if you let someone become special to you, you’ll find there’s a cost: there’s pain when they’re no longer there.
And yet, what would life be without those special connections we make with those special people, the ones who come into your life and in a way that you can’t explain, become special to you and become almost part of you and oh, how it hurts when they go but still, it’s worth it.
I’ve got more than one painful goodbye on the agenda right now – one more final than the other as I have a funeral to go to on Friday, a thanksgiving service for the life of a man who was not just in my church but in my home group and since he died I have to face up to the fact that he won’t be there at home group meetings and we won’t have those debates that he and I so enjoyed, sharpening each other’s thinking and sometimes very strongly disagreeing but doing it in real brotherly love. It was special, and I’m going to miss this guy – though I’m happy for him that his suffering is over and he’s with Jesus now, forever.
The other goodbye is less final – it’s a goodbye to people who are moving geographically, but not to the furthest ends of the earth so there’s a fair chance I will see them again sometime. But it’s still excruciatingly painful, and I’m typing this through tears because right now I feel like the tears aren’t going to stop any time soon so I might as well blog.
And I’m reminded of the very wise voice of one of my relatives back in 1985 at my dad’s funeral – my honorary auntie Netty (she was really the wife of a cousin of my mum’s) who saw me trying to stifle my tears and hugged me and said simply: It’s alright to cry, he was your father.
Such an important lesson: it’s ok to cry when you’ve lost someone who meant something to you. You don’t have to put a brave face on, pretend you’re ok when you’re not. Part of the deal of being human is that sometimes you won’t be ok.
Yesterday I had the precious opportunity of twice sitting with another person and letting them cry – the first one in private but the second one was in front of a whole load of other people, and someone later came up to me and asked me about that second one: is that lady ok? I didn’t really know how to answer that – because no, she’s not ok, I said I’d pray for her and I offered her a suggestion for something that I think might help, but I can’t really go into all that with anyone who asks because it was very personal. But the thing that really bugged me was how desperate this person was to get an assurance that that lady is ok – as though if someone’s crying that’s the end of the world or something.
Do I sound callous? It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just that I’m realistic: I know that life does include pain and heartache, I’m not surprised when that happens because I’ve lived on this earth long enough to know it’s actually pretty normal. And I know that sometimes pain is actually useful – a bit like when physical pain can be a sign that something’s wrong and we need to see the doctor and get medical treatment, the pain that lady had shared with me is useful in drawing her closer to God, it’s a sign that something in her relationship with him isn’t right and it needs fixing.
Life, from the moment we’re born, includes pain and suffering. That’s how it’s been since almost forever… not since forever, because when God created this world it was all good. But then we humans turned our backs on God, we rebelled against him and lost our intimate connection with the source of all goodness and comfort. And so, as a result of human sin, pain and suffering became part of life – and they’re there to point us to our deep need for God! When we lose someone who was precious to us – whether it’s through death or just a geographical move – the pain of loss is a reminder: we’re mortal, life on this earth is finite, everything we have and hold dear is only temporary and fleeting, all our comfort blankets are really threadbare and without God we have nothing.
The good news though: through Jesus we can get that intimate relationship with God back, we can be restored to how we were meant to be, and so we can face all the pain and suffering of this life in the knowledge that when we die it’s not going to be the end, it’s going to be the start of something wonderful and eternal!
Jesus said: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Come to the Father, through Jesus, and live.