Grief is Better than Laughter?

 A chiming doorbell on my cell phone signaled I’d received a text message.  “How’s your day?”

I’m so grateful for friends checking in with me.  Otherwise my human interaction is limited these days to nurses, strangers in a hospital cafeteria and a frequently sleepy mom…we’re blaming it on Compazine for her nausea. 

My reply text, “4 hrs sleep. Got thrown up on. Cried to see mom so sick. Ate junk 4 lunch for comfort. And just got beat at cards cos mom was bored. Good day.”  I no longer ask or desire for my days to flow flawlessly.  I’m choosing to embrace reality and to thank God for every moment, even if I’m saying, “Thank you, God” through tears.

I used to puzzle over Ecclesiastes 7:3, “Grief is better than laughter…” Today I’m rethinking that.  I’ve grieved much these past few months, mostly related to mom’s multiple myeloma and all she has suffered in this process for hope of healing.  There have been days when I have forced a laugh, feigned a smile trying to put up a good front.  But the tears…those have all been real.  Laughter can be faked but grieving cannot.  Grieving is honest.  In that respect, Scripture holds true. Grief IS better than laughter.

Do not ask why the old days were better than these, for that is a foolish question.”  Ecc. 7:10

We’re often tempted to look back over the “old days” and tell ourselves those were better days.  Past pain diminishes. Foggy recall occludes accurate details.  Selective memory clings to positive while it ferrets out, then dismisses negative…well, at least in those who favor optimism.  Whether a fact, tainted sentiment or complete denial, ascribing “good” to the past can easily be accomplished if we so choose.  But today, when my heart is aching over mom’s suffering, when I smell like vomit, I’m coming down from a self-inflicted sugar high,  I’m sleep deprived and I can’t seem to stop my eyes from leaking, “Thank you God” has a much different feel to it.  I’m steeped in the misery of this day and still I’m choosing to say THIS is a good day.  Why?  Because I was blessed to spend time with someone I love.  Because any “bad day” side-by-side with a loved one is better than the most beautiful day without love. And because God sees my day, sees how it pales in comparison to what mom is dealing with and He graces me with divine perspective…compared to what His Son went through at Calvary, this is a very good day.

“Consider God’s handiwork: who can straighten what he has made crooked? When things go well, be glad.  When things go ill, consider this: God has set the one alongside the other in such a way that no one can find out what is to happen next…man is greatly troubled by ignorance of the future.  Who can tell him what it will bring? It is not in man’s power to restrain the wind and no one has power over the day of death.  In war, no one can lay aside his arms, no wealth can save its possessors.”  Ecc 7:13-14; 8:6-8

Control is an illusion.  I can’t predict what will happen and I am powerless to control outcomes.  The only thing I can fully control is how my heart will respond to the here and now.  By God’s mercy, as long as I have breath in my body, I get to decide one day at a time to say “Thank You, God” even when grief overshadows laughter.

The Sound of Love’s Sacrifice

easter-2009-0643 

Some folks shot me strange looks as I was coming out of Home Depot a few days ago. 

 

I was carrying a 5’ wooden cross.  I also got some nods of partial understanding…it was, after all, Good Friday.  Members of my family in Christ didn’t need to know the reason for the cross I was carrying.  They simply did the math and reckoned it had something to do with Easter celebration.  I lugged the cross through the parking lot feeling the splinters of the oak beam dig into my shoulder.  For a moment I paused to consider the weight of the Cross Christ bore on the Via Dolorosa. 

 

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I love special occasions.  My domestic flair peaks with the approach of a holiday.  Determined not to permit decorating and cooking for 20+ people to overshadow the meaning of our Lord’s death and resurrection, I had gone to Home Depot with a mission in mind.  The cross would be placed out side my front door with 9” spikes partially nailed at opposite ends of the crossbeam.  A sign posted above the cross draped with a crimson sash read “It wasn’t the nails that held Him there.  It was His love for You.” Guests would be invited to hit one of the spikes with a hammer as a visual and auditory reminder, “Christ took the nails for me”.   

 

Predictably the guests began to arrive and each person was surprised to be greeted with a hug and a hammer.  Still all understood the powerful imagery and were sobered at the invitation to hit the spike.  The sound of the hammer driving the nail was powerful and sent chills down my spine each time I heard it.  It was the sound of Love’s sacrifice.

 

What must it have been like that day at Calvary?  Christ did not simply hear the spikes, He felt them.  Every blow.  In His wrists.  Through His ankles.  These were not little nails but large spikes ruthlessly driven deep into His flesh.  Did He grimace?  Did He cry aloud?  Did He weep?  Whatever His response to this torture, we know 2000 years later the nails were not what held Jesus to the Cross.  As a mob at His feet mocked Him to save Himself, Jesus could have called legions of angels to His rescue.  But love made a choice that day, a choice to hang there.  Love chose to endure the agony.  Love chose to die for the sin of mankind.  Love chose to pay a price man could never afford, to give a gift man would never deserve. 

 

He endured the suffering that should have been ours. Isaiah 53:4

 

Praise be to God that Calvary was not the end.  As I celebrated Easter Sunday with friends and family today, we gave thanks for the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross and we rejoiced in His Resurrection.  Because He lives we have hope for this journey.  Beyond that, Christ’s victory over the final enemy…death…offers us the promise of eternal life with Him in heaven.

 

“God raised Him up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Acts 2:24

 

Jesus Christ is RISEN!

Breakfast on the Beach: Cleansing Tide

Breakfast on the Beach Day 4, St. Augustine, FL

 

The tide has been so high this morning the beach is literally littered with debris…hundreds of shells & fragments, seaweed in abundance, even an occasional piece of soggy driftwood strewn about.  It’s as if the ocean heaved to dump its garbage on the shore then receded to distance itself from the ensuing mess.  If an alien landed on this beach at this moment he might conclude that nothing good or useful comes out of the sea—only this refuse that once served a purpose but is now rendered useless.

 

How many times in my 40+ years of existence have I felt that life has relentlessly churned me & then spit me out, much like the ocean & these broken shells?  What once could have been beautiful & meaningful is now reduced to something of little or no value, mere remnants that only the most vivid imagination could picture as lovely.  Failed relationships, tensions in the workplace, ill-placed loyalties, wrong priorities, poor choices, missed opportunities…all waves in the ocean of life with tragic remains sprawled out on the shore, scattered about in pieces as painful reminders of my fallen state.  It is difficult to think that God could do anything with this mess.  Yet the Bible says he gives “beauty for ashes” {Isaiah 61:3}…He exchanges the rubble & ruin for temples of glory.  His glory.  In His time.  Just as we cannot change the timing of the tides, God’s purposes in our lives cannot be hurried. 

 

Eventually the tide will move in again to sweep the beach clean pulling all the debris out to sea…a forceful act of the Creator to wipe away all evidence of clutter on the beach leaving it once again pristine.  How powerful the picture, how precious the reality of what Christ accomplished on the Cross of Calvary.  In one unselfish act of obedience at the direction of the Creator, Jesus made a way for all life’s clutter and the ugliness of sin to be forever washed away.  And just as the waves ebb & flow a constant replenishment & removal of seaweed, our life’s redemption is an on-going exchange…our sin for his blood.

 

I avert my eyes from the garbage on the beach to follow waves far off in the distance as they merge with the horizon.  Indeed, the ocean is so much more than what is represented on the sand.  There is beauty and depth that will never be fully realized while standing on the shore. 

 

“…it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we will be like Him…” I John 3:2