+ Last week my 15 year-old cousin, Austin, died in a car wreck. As many of you know, it has been less than 2 years since my cousin Stephen died the day after his 25th birthday.
My first thought when I heard the news of Austin’s death was ‘Why? We’re not even over Stephen yet.’ I had a lot of time to think on this stuff during the drive to Raleigh for Austin’s funeral. Time to think about how we can reconcile tragedies such as these with our belief that we have a loving God.
My final answer is that I don’t have a freakin’ clue.
All the answers I’ve ever heard about good and evil, the necessity for pain, God doesn’t ‘want’ this to happen, he allows it, and blah, blah, blah have never given me anything more than a desire to punch someone in the mouth.
In the evening after we buried Austin, family and friends sat on the back-porch, talking and passing a guitar around – singing songs. When it came to me, I played a song that had been on my mind the whole drive the day before: Gillian Welch, By The Mark Where The Nails Have Been.
That’s when it occurred to me:
When Jesus reappeared to his friends after he had resurrected, he still bore the evidence of his wounds. When John, in his revelation, was told ‘behold the Lion of Judah’ he looked up and saw a lamb that looked as though it had been slaughtered… and all of creation was worshiping it.
Or as Gillian says:
I will know my Savior when I come to Him,
by the mark where the nails have been.
In the Kingdom of God it seems that healing is not the elimination of our wounds. I think that’s what I must have thought before – that healing means that the wound is gone.
But perhaps our wounds uniquely identify us? Perhaps the struggle is to have our wounds drive us closer to God rather than farther from Him?
To me this is freeing for grief.
It allows us to honestly, profoundly and deeply mourn the loss of a loved one. We don’t have to give a half-hearted assent to ‘I know he’s in a better place.’ Yes, this is true. But our tears can and should come uncontrolled. For these are tears that scream out ‘all is not right, this is bad, absolutely wrong, save me, save me from this time of trial’ and that is as honest a plea for God as we may be capable of.
I suppose we don’t ever get ‘over’ the things that we truly grieve. They become part of who we are. They increase our dependence upon God. They become that thing that when someone asks you why you believe in God, you simply break down into tears once again. You show them your wounds – as Christ did for St. Thomas so many years ago. You let them put their hand into your wounds. And in doing so, they too encounter the truth of resurrection.