When Theology Meets Reality, Part II

This is the second post of a wee series discussing the recent loss of my Dad. You can read the first post here.

I’ll be honest with you. The unexpected loss of my Dad felt like a suckerpunch to the gut. I was looking the other way. I didn’t know I was in the ring. I didn’t know I was in a fight.


And grief is this spiraling, strange whirlwind of the mind. You begin to feel a little better, and then you feel bad for feeling better. You aren’t sure which emotions are valid, you aren’t sure where irrational departs from rational. You secretly want to punch people for telling you they know exactly how you feel, but you’re not a violent person.

And yet, death has this way of making your entire life seem clear as an empty wine glass — even just for a moment.

Do you know that moment, when you walk on the beach, and past a pier? You look out towards the ocean while you’re under the pier and all the pilings line up, and the moment seems clear. Everything makes sense.

This is why we left South Africa sooner than we thought we should have. 

This is why the gift of our third child being born right when she was makes so much sense.

And wow, when she arrived, my Dad was several states away — he returned to visit his birthplace for the first time in his life. A few months before he died.

What a gift that our finances were so tight, and we were offered this place to stay in Washington, and we didn’t decide to move to Greenville. Wow, wow, wow.


Life lines up, and there’s a lot of stuff you just ‘get.’ Instantly, you see the wisdom, the structure, the logic. It builds your faith and gives you hope.

But the grief journey continues. When you walk out from under the pier, the pilings don’t look perfectly organized anymore. The waves are crashing, surfers are scattered about, dropping in on each other’s waves. Seagulls are squawking. The glare from the sun is bright. You’re squinting, wondering, wishing, thinking.

If I’d really, really made a big deal out of the fact that he needed to go to the doctor, would it have made a difference?

Why couldn’t we have come back sooner? 

Why did I say “no” so many times when Dad asked me something? Let’s garden together… Let’s decorate the tree at my house… Should we do twice-baked potatoes?

You struggle to form complete sentences in your own thoughts. You absent-mindedly stare into the distance. You get into your Dad’s car, and the smell reminds you of him. You listen to the voicemails he left you last month.

You cry. At the drop of a hat.

That’s the journey. Those are the cards in my hand.

I’m going to do my best to explain how I’m making sense of all this in my mind, how I’m dealing with it. Because I think it matters.

Even if it doesn’t matter to you, per se, it is an exercise in processing through grief for me. When I have little else, most times, I still have words.

And I want you folks, new and old, who read here to know that I stand on the other side, more confident than ever that what I’ve been saying about this Jesus guy is true.

I’m certain God is good. I’m certain there is hope, there is good ahead of me.

And I’m certain, thanking Jesus as I type, I will see my Dad again.

More soon…


Have you ever had a pier moment? Are you trying to make some life-sized decisions and struggling to figure them out? Try thinking about what would be most important to you if you lost someone close to you today. Death has an amazing way of putting life into better perspective.



Long Pauses and Goodbyes

The first time I ever used the word nephew, in the context of me being the aunt, was in reference to a creature with four legs and a tail. His name was Logan, and he was a big-headed, beautiful labrador, who had a white mama and a yellow daddy, if I remember correctly. Named after the winningest coach {yup, that’s a word} in the history of East Carolina University’s football program, he peed in my car, nearly got me kicked out of my apartment and stole my heart, all in the course of the first weekend I ‘puppy-sat’ him twelve years ago.

{When The Bear met Logan – Love at First Lick, 2009}

My brother said good-bye to Logan on Monday night, and though he lived a good and long and generally happy life, right now that doesn’t seem to make the end of it much easier, I don’t think.

I am heart-sore thinking of how quiet my brother’s house probably seems, the dog bed I found for him at Pet Smart last Christmas lying vacant by the window.

I thought again about Spurgeon saying “It must be an awful thing to live an unafflicted life on Earth.” I remember him talking about the power of God to turn bitter waters sweet — the power of God to redeem the things that really, really hurt.

U2 has been one of my favorite bands for a long time because of my brother, and I think all this through and hear Bono in my mind, crooning out these beauty-packed lyrics:

Yahweh, Yahweh
always pain before the child is born.
Yahweh, Yahweh
still I’m waiting for the dawn.
{“Yahweh”, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, 2004}

{Christmas and Patience, 2010}

Somehow all of our lives are lived in that sort of in-between waiting space. Since the only time sorrow will ever truly cease is when all of this is finished. When God folds up time like a tablecloth we’ve all finished eating off of. And while I don’t have the eschatology pinned down regarding what the end of time is going to look like exactly, I’m confident of this: The best is yet to come. Jesus has restoration in mind. And that process started when He said It is finished.

So here and now we dwell in between, in a layer of time where we know there will be a re-creation, a re-birth, the completion of Jesus saying Look! I make all things new. But we are not yet there.

We live in a very pregnant pause. And the Bible actually describes it that way — We know that the whole creation has been groaning, as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves[…] wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. {Romans 8:22,23} This passage goes on to declare those familiar words:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. {Rom. 8:28}

{Thanksgiving 2011}

But we don’t always get to see all of that just yet. We don’t always get to see the redemption right now. We don’t always get to draw a complete circle around the pain, cross through the item that hurts off the list in our souls, and put a little ‘redeemed’ checkmark beside it. Now we see in a mirror, dimly…but then, face to face. Now we know in part, then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known. {1 Cor. 13:12}

So we wait with the hope of glory in mind. We know that pain is temporary, and in a way, our earthly joys are temporary, too. We’re going to laugh again. We’re going to cry again. We’re going to mourn again. We’re going to dance again. God saw it fit for it to be this way. Perhaps because if it was always only ever happy, we’d never look for Him, never realize that the best really is yet to come.

Could it be that this is why contentment is probably one of the healthiest goals we could set our sights on? Not the kind of contentment that says “I can’t do any better, I can’t expect any better, this’ll do for now…” but the kind of contentment that says, “This is where I am at the moment — the past and the future are likely to be different, but I am going to choose to live my right now well, and thankful.”

While trusting for redemption, here’s to living this moment well, and to Logan.