Monday, February 9, 2009

Grief and Hope

Many of you noticed my absence over the last month or so before my previous post. Let me share the cause. On December 10, I got one of the worst phone calls of my life, as I learned that Becky Burns, one of the leaders in our singles ministry, had passed away unexpectedly. It rocked me, and it rocked our singles ministry. It was one of those tragedies that we all know is a part of life, but we try to avoid at all costs.

The days following her passing were paradoxical. On the one hand, it was one of the most stretching times of my life, as I tried to minister to the family and to our church while dealing with my own grief. On the other, it was so inspiring to see how our singles ministry rose up and met the crisis with unbelievable grace. The group ministered to the family by providing food, cleaning the house, helping to plan the memorial service, composing the service order, and putting together a slideshow for the reception. All this, along with countless emails, phone calls and text messages ensured that care was given in every possible way. It was nothing short of remarkable, truly the closest experience of "Acts 2" church as I have known.

I was honored to be asked to bring the message at Becky's service. It was, however, the hardest thing I have had to do in ministry. I don't know that I have had such an intense sense of dread about anything ever before. Yet, God's grace carried me through, just as it had for us all in the preceding days.

Now that several weeks have gone by, God is continuing to heal me along with the rest of our folks. We are not completely different than we were before our loss; in many ways the singles ministry is the same as before. At the same time, we have all been changed by this experience. We have experienced in a new way the concept of "community." We have learned together how to be vulnerable in our times of weakness, and to be strong in the face of intense difficulty. Most of all, I think we have learned a deeper truth of the Christian faith, that we do not"... grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope." Praise be to the everlasting God, who comforts us in our time of trial.

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