I am begrudgingly writing this post only because of my massively ginormous mouth.
Let me explain:
Every Monday, I write an email to the women at my church. It is informal and low-key, just a way to connect, point to Jesus, and hopefully brighten their days because, Lord help us, Mondays need brightening. This Monday I wrote about “God moments.” I wrote about some ways I’d seen God working in my life and I encouraged the women to look for God in their every day lives as well.
I hit send, gave myself a pat on the back, and went on my merry way.
It turns out, God read my email too. Nosy little stinker. I assume He said something to the effect of, “What excellent advice!” Followed by, “You should take that excellent advice!” At least, that is how I am explaining all of this to myself.
Now I will expound on that: the summer before my senior year of high school, one of my best friends was killed in a car accident. Her life and death deeply impacted me then and now and you can read about that here. But after high school I went to college, and after college I moved across the country. A lot has changed. I’ve changed. I specifically think about my friend Makenzie sometimes but not often, and definitely not on Tuesday mornings in November before heading to work. This is because mornings are hard and my normally creative, interesting, spirited brain sounds more like brush teeth, brush, brush, brush, spit, rinse, walk, walk, walk, sit before coffee. Ahh, sweet sweet coffee.
However, yesterday morning, as I was perusing through Instagram, my brain snapped out of its usual scroll, scroll, scroll rhythm and instead did a double take. Makenzie? No. Wait, but is it? No, you weirdo.
In fact, the girl in the picture looks nothing like Makenzie. She is a friend of mine from college who I never once before thought resembled Makenzie in any way. I had no reason to jump to that conclusion. It was odd. But because of the picture, I thought about Makenzie. I thought about our friendship, the friendships that strengthened through her, the night she died, where she’d be now.
An hour later on the way to work, I received a text from a teenager at my church. Her classmate had been hit by a car and killed the night before.
My mind went immediately to my own experience with Makenzie. Makenzie, who I happened to be thinking of earlier that morning due to a picture of a girl who looks nothing like her at all.
My heart went out to this new teenager in heaven, to his friends, his family, his community. I prayed earnestly for strength, peace, hope, for purpose in the midst of tragedy. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’m sure I prayed more passionately than would have otherwise. My heart ached for them, for the friends of this person I never knew.
I thought that was it. I thought God had me think about Makenzie that morning so I could better empathize with this newly grieving community. But He wasn’t quite done.
I saw a cute dress online, clicked on it, and saw that it was called the Kenzie dress. Minutes later, our church’s pastor intern called me over to get ideas on an upcoming sermon series.
“What’s it going to be about?”
“Death and life. Being a new creation. What to do while we’re waiting for heaven. Any ideas?” My mouth dropped.
Small things, guys. Small things. I know that! But I had just focused on “God moments” in that weekly email less than 24 hours before. And here it was: sprinklings of God moments, small but so obvious, the very next day. I couldn’t very well ignore it, now could I?
I have learned a handful of things in my life:
1.) I don’t see the big picture.
2.) I am small. (NOT IN STATURE. I know y’all were thinking it. Shame.)
3.) I don’t know a lot of stuff.
4.) God sees everything.
5.) He is big.
6.) He knows all the stuff.
Usually I write blog posts with purposes in mind. I honestly have no idea what the purpose of this one is. I just know that the Holy Spirit does weird things in weird ways and I ignore Him too often.
So I’m putting this up on the world wide web just in case someone needs it. If you need to talk, let me know. If you need some prayers, let me know. I like to talk and I like to pray, and by golly, I probably like you.
In the meantime, death is inevitable and it is the worst. It sucks more than anything I’ve ever experienced. After Makenzie died, I became so fearful of my parents dying, my sisters dying, other friends. The fear would suffocate me. In fact, only last year I watched “If I Stay” with some friends. Do yourself a favor and don’t ever, ever do that. Sobbing, I called my mother afterwards because [SPOILER ALERT] I was terrified my whole family would die in a car accident together in Texas and I’d be up in Tennessee totally alive and it would be horrible. My mother, however, was in the middle of a dinner party and gleefully passed me around the table to say hello to everyone in attendance. Awkward. Super unhelpful. Never doing that again.
Death is the worst.
But death is not the end.
Death has been defeated.
Death has been defeated by Someone who loves us relentlessly and is intimately involved in each of our lives: preparing, molding, engaging.
And that’s not even helpful to hear in the midst of it. Not really. Because death has been defeated, but your loved one is gone. I know. I get it. But I promise you, I promise you, that the reality of heaven and eternal life and no tears and no pain with Jesus will be worth every tear and every lonely, heart wrenching moment here on earth. Jesus won the war, y’all. Love Himself has won for us and he is able to do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20.
Death is not the end.
It’s not even the beginning.
In Jesus, there’s only ever beautiful, intimate, abundant life and I will add my own “Hallelujah, amen!” to that just in case none of y’all do.
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.