This week, as we face Father’s Day, we remember those for whom the day holds a twinge of pain, or perhaps overwhelming grief. In honor of Father’s Day, we will be posting blogs by men. We give thanks for their willingness to give voice to their own experiences of grief, of loss and of ministry among those who have lost and the promise held in the very act of sharing: you are not alone.
8 June 2014
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” – Colossians 3.2-3
No one tells you when you’re young that you’ll feel ridiculous during some of the most important moments of your life. If you were raised on American pop culture like I was, you come to expect that those moments on which life pivots will contain a certain gravitas: John Cusack, feet firmly planted in the soil, hoisting a boombox towards his love; Tom Cruise valiantly tossing Goose’s dogtags into the sea; Ferris Bueller’s friend, Cameron, finally deciding to be brave enough to confront his father. You come to expect a scene worthy of the moment, worthy of remembering.
And so, on the day that I retrieved my unborn daughter’s ashes from the funeral home all the way down on 14th street, it was a shock to realize that I could feel so foolish as I sat on the L train. Foolish because the box—all cheap, shiny white plastic and severe right angles—refused to fit inside of the bag that I had brought to hide it. Foolish because as I sat there cradling in my lap this bulging, unclosable bag, these few tiny ashes, a woman—clearly within days of her due date—sat across from me in morbid juxtaposition.
And so, on the day that my wife and I drove to the Atlantic Ocean to return the dust of our daughter’s bones to the dust of the earth, it was a shock that an occasion so solemn could be so awkward. The stiff breeze blowing in off of the water made scattering Mary’s ashes with any dignity impossible, so I was compelled to wade in and return her not via wind but via wave: wave upon wave, waiting for the tide to finally rinse clean the disposable plastic baggy in my hands (tied, of course, with a predictably uncooperative wire tie). And then what does one do afterwards with the baggy, with the box, with the tie? Sometimes life really is a shambles.
And so, in those uncomfortable moments and in returning to those uncomfortable moments, it is crucial that we remind ourselves that our lives are not lived out before a crowd, bared for the world on some big screen, but are instead hidden—“encrypted,” almost, in the original Greek—in the life of Christ: the child who had to flee from Herod to postpone death; the man who refused to flee from Pilate thereby submitting to death; the Messiah, nail-pierced and scourged, whose resurrection swore that he, and not death and his minions, will have the final word. We belong to him, as do our children. Our lives and their lives are hidden in his. Our lives’ logic, their meaning, their telos are hidden in his, not in some sense of drama or solemnity. And this means that all of our lives’ are, along with his, actually yet to be revealed, revealed to one another, to the world, and even to ourselves. There is life yet. Scars may remain. Suffering will not. Tears will not. This is the hope that we’ve been given, for if Christ is not raised from the dead then we above all people are to be most pitied (I Cor. 15.19), but if he is—and he is—then we know that none of our stories, nor any of theirs, will be fully written until that final day.