The Trouble with Dead Christians: They’re Still Dead
I remember quite vividly the funeral of a dear friend at the ripe old age of 43. At the time I was 30, and I may have considered her “middle-aged.” Now, myself at 46, I am certain she wasn’t. As her husband and young son stood at the podium, her beloved man said, “we were having so much fun, yes, that’s it… we were having fun just being together.”
It had been 18 months before that I first met her in the vestibule of the church, shock and concern assaulted me, and I begged, “Helen? Were you in an accident?” She, with a fantastic British accent, said, “Bloody hell! I have no idea what is going on! A week ago I woke unable to feel my damn leg!”
I ducked twice as she let loose “bad words” in the house of the Lord and cursed the walker that barely helped her inside.
As I watched her “men” agonize through the salubrious goodbye, I recounted her continued rapid decline and ultimately untimely death from ALS. Many “bad words” flooded my pounding head. Praise be to God my throat was restricted with grief, or I’d have blurted them out right there in the Mass, which may have resulted in an exorcism.
And this post may result in one because I am going to say somethings, things Christians shouldn’t say.
Death is a tragedy. Certainly, I believe in the eternal glory of heaven. But it doesn’t overrule the decree down here of being “dead.” And dead hurts the living, yes, even the Christian living.
There are the common clichés, ones that deserve a “would you please shut up?” While others warrant a punch in the throat. Heed the warning, I am suggesting a throat punching movement, a non-punishable assault for throat punching a funeral attendee who says, “God must’ve needed another angel.”
And there are the most sincere of condolences, genuine and dear. But when I think of those left behind I’d beg to argue the injustice, “We were having so much fun, yes, that’s it… we were having fun just being together.”
Death most rudely interrupts life.
Its intrusion leaves enormous gaps in normal. It invades every emotion with the intensity of memory and summons a solitary space, a space that will never ever be the same. And a most intimate place, where no matter the tender familiarity, no one knows “exactly how you feel.”
I propose that the Christian species is blessed in the hope of heaven. Still, the trouble with a dead Christian is they are still dead. Still gone, still not here with us, where we most enjoyed their company.
And we were having so much fun, just being together.
I am up at 1:39 am grieving for a grieving friend who lost her daddy yesterday. Her words to me, “I am just heartbroken” have left me tossing and turning. And I relayed the death to a mutual friend, and I said, “He was only 67.” A few weeks ago another acquaintance passed, and I lamented a more advanced age with the same mystery, “He was only 89.”
And I remember as a child, cowering under my sheets, I wept secretly, heartbroken over my daddy’s birthday party that evening. I couldn’t bear the thought of him growing older, and the candles on his cake had brought me to radical distress. At the time I believed, after this milestone birthday, he wouldn’t have much time left here on earth.
He was thirty.
39 years later, he continues to delight in life.
Age is really relative in death. Death still means someone you enjoy is no longer of easy of company. Their age may inflate the injustice, but that person is still dead. And truly, this sucks. There isn’t any other way to say it, well there is, but then this post would just be another “Chin up, see you on the other side! Jesus loves you! Let’s have some pudding!” post.
This post is more of a “dead sucks” post.
And all the church ladies clutch the hankies and gasp.
But I’d like to recommend that God is big enough to handle the fury that naturally accompanies “dead.”
I imagine Martha, who by the way is my favorite biblical character, storming from the house, “Bloody hell Jesus!?! He’s dead! Where have you been? Our brother is dead. And we were having so much fun, yes, that’s it… we were having fun just being together… ”
And what did Jesus do?
This baffles me more than death. He knew what He was going to do. Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. Moreover, He is JESUS. So He above all others He “should” have been like, “It’s cool Martha, we will see him on the other side, chin up, do you have any pudding?”
Ah yes, how we “should” behave.
If Jesus, who can raise a guy 5 days out and still weep at the tragedy, there’s no sure-fire “should” in dead etiquette. The trouble with dead Christians is they’re still dead, and life even at is worst is more fun in the company of those we love.
I have been surrounded by peace in seasons of loss. And this is good. But I have also nearly drowned in the wrath of grief, and for this, I always felt guilty. I used to believe that the pain of grief would be my undoing. Yet lately I have come to know grief as a celebration, a carnival of loss. Loss worth celebrating, worth remembering. Grief is the cost of having loved well, and the right to mourn that love, and the absence of it.
Furthermore, as creatures created in the image of our Creator, He fashioned the emotions associated with dead.
He wept at the loss of life, fully cognizant of what waited for Lazarus on the other side.
I submit He did this because dead sucks. It is all the things that mess with a good life. Truly it is the most basic antonym to living.
Dead means… that part, the piece of life we were enjoying so much is no more, and if that makes you furious, you were fashioned by someone who created fury. He created laughter, tears, mourning, and dancing. He is not shocked or offended by the deep belly cries of the living, grieving the dead.
In the self-righteousness of our salvation, we have shoved a “Do Not Mourn” sign down the throats of the heartbroken. Among the helpful and wise, we have told them what they should do instead of letting the grief chips fall where they may.[clickToTweet tweet=”we were having so much fun, yes, that’s it… we were having fun just being together. #deadsucks” quote=”we were having so much fun, yes, that’s it… we were having fun just being together. #deadsucks”]
I mean, don’t make a scene.
We can do this at home.
Hold it together…
You should be glad you will see them again…
Dead is more complex than living. Dead means never knowing a much-anticipated grandchild. It means no more Sunday lunches, and that particular chair can never be filled up again. It means never grabbing the phone and calling with good or bad news. And those things suck.
They hurt. And they are not fair.
Death rudely interrupts life.
Healthy Christian platitudes don’t change the hurt of being here when someone you adored is dead.
And I am not saying you should, but I am most certainly not saying you shouldn’t, untuck your shirt, kick off your high heels. Let loose the controlled bun pinned nicely atop your weary head and let it rip. Kick wide the door to all the feels; happy memories, awful ones, the loss, the hope, the injustice, and the grace. Fling wide the deep gut wails of dead and recognize the nonsense of life without someone you adored.
For as greatly as we have loved, wouldn’t it make perfect sense to mourn with the same intensity?
I propose that God gave us all these feels. Mourning isn’t a sign of a lack of faith. I find it of great comfort to know I will meet my loved ones again on the other side, but that is of no consequence to the fact a dead Christian is still dead.
To the broken hearted I simply encourage, rage on… here among the shattered and wrecked you are most cared for.
At the end of the day, dead just sucks.
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted Matthew 5:4
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