Life and death. They’re around us at all times. While conception may sometimes be unexpected, the joy of a delivery is almost always expected. Death, on the other hand, can come painfully slow with a debilitating illness, or breathtakingly fast. And from any direction. Accident. Overdose. Suicide. Complications. Young. Old. Black. White. Rich. Poor. As we approach the end of the year, the number of names on my heart who I know are in the throws of grieving seems longer and more painful than usual.
If there are two things I’ve absorbed, it’s that we should hold on both tighter and looser. Let me explain.
Each day comes and goes so quickly. Here we are again in the week of Thanksgiving. Seems like just a minute ago I was pulling out the shorts for spring and now 2017 is saying farewell. And as each day has flashed by, it’s easy to take for granted each person I care about. From my husband, my children, my parents, my sister, my friends… to the friendly woman at the dry cleaners… I need to hold on tighter. I need to live each day knowing I’m not guaranteed to have each of them with me every day on this earth. They need to know they’re deeply loved and valued, not overlooked in my hurry.
Just this past week, pastor Levi Lusko came to Highpoint with the Passion Music Tour and shared the story of his 5-year-old daughter dying of an asthma attack just days before Christmas. We certainly know far too many stories just like that in our city. Only our Father in heaven knows the days we are here on this earth, so let’s love tightly.
As much as I want to make sure that what I get right in life is loving people, death is also the reminder that we must hold things loosely. It would be easy for every mother of a five-year-old to go into freak-out, overprotective mode. I get it. I’ve woken sitting up straight in a midnight-blackened room, chest pounding, realizing it was only a nightmare. Can I protect them from germs? … people? … cars? The list is unending.
I remember when Mark was 8 months old and Chris was headed to China. I convinced myself that I’d end up a widow raising my son by myself. I’ve never forgotten Chris’s words: “Karin, I don’t think God is done using me yet. When He is, He’ll take me home.” None of us know when God will be done using us, but there was something about his calm, knowing his family had stared death straight in the eyes years before when his brother was killed in an accident, that reminded me that this life isn’t about me.
If we hold on so tightly that we think we can’t live without someone, we’ve accidentally set ourselves up for the certainty of a longer journey of grief than God designed. He knows the pain we suffer. He grieves with us in our losses. Death was not His plan for us. It only entered when Eve chose her way instead of His. May we not make that same mistake. May we not think we know better than Him and continue making the people we deeply love the central object of our affection. Love them tightly, but allow the deepest places of your heart to be connected to the only One who has the power to never leave you or forsake you. Allow your roots to grow deep so when that day comes, you’ll know you loved them tightly, but held them loosely.