what we miss about redepmtion

While we all know in our heads death is terrible. I struggle to think of any instance where we truly rejoice. But we approach it from a strange place in church.

It’s our vehicle the ultimate prize. It’s the goal line. We’ve run the race and are ready for our reward.

So despite its purely destructive nature, we take a strange approach to death. We see the redemption that Jesus has brought to and through death and it’s now just not so bad.

This redemptive nature of Jesus is so powerful it must be acknowledged and celebrated. It must be trumped and exclaimed for everyone to hear. It’s the power of the gospel. Jesus has come to redeem everything.

But that redemption is a process. It’s not a static action. It’s not that everything that has occurred and will occur has been redeemed. It can be, but may not be yet.

And it’s this temporal nature of redemption that I think leads to a lot of pain.

Pain when we say “don’t worry its God’s plan”

Pain when we say “God’s in control”

Pain when we see the possibility for redemption and speak as though it’s already happened.

The pain is real.

The loss is real.

The devastation is real.

When we speak as though redemption has happened we speak as though the pain, loss or devastation isn’t real. We speak as though we should no longer feel the pain, loss or devastation. We speak as though life will continue in the same way it always had.

These aren’t scars of a past memory but open wounds that need tending and caring.

I think we miss this as a church body. We miss this by a long shot.

Tending to those wounds requires proximity. We have to be in the mess with them. We have to see the damage. We can’t skip over it. We have to call it what it is and address the reality of it. We have to see the fullness of the damage to have a prayer of mending it.

We take part in the long, sometimes agonizing healing process. We are part of the search and journey of redemption, which is often only seen when we reflect back.

Even if we’re told its coming we don’t often see redemption as it’s happening. We can’t understand it until we’re in it look at back at it.

We dream and hope and desire for it.

I have experienced few things as hurtful and damaging as someone talking like my pain and struggle has already been redeemed. Few things as painful as someone taking from me the option to grieve and process. Doing everything they can to support but in reality doing everything possible to invalidate and minimize the depth and impact of the experience I was living.

And none of it was experienced as love.

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this is dark…

Death is horrific.

It is purposeless and devoid of meaning. Death is violent and visceral. It’s abusive and unyielding.

We strive to bring meaning to it. We hope and pray for purpose in the darkness, but there is none. And that’s terrifying.

We say it’s all a part of Gods plan, but it’s not.

It was never the plan.

The loss that comes with it is crushing. If it hasn’t yet, death will fundamental change the way you see the world. The world is never the same.

The relationships is lost, and with it part of you is lost. It can’t be redeemed, it’s never coming back.

And how do we feel?

Sadness? Nothingness? Profound pain? Less than whole?

We call this grief.

Greif is the response to the loss of that which we love. When we love and that love is ripped from us, torn away in such a permanent manner that it cannot be reconciled we grieve. It’s what our love pushes us to do.

From time to time I volunteer with grief support groups.

I can’t tell you often I’ve heard people struggling through their loss say “I wish it was me.” How many people would give anything to bring the wholeness back into their lives. Who plead for anything the fix it, willing to give up everything, knowing in the depths of their soul there is nothing to do.

Death is darkness in a way nothing else can be. It’s to permanent. It’s to one sided. There is no going back and there is no way to process or reconcile once it’s happened.

What’s done is done and it can never be undone. That relationships can never be anything more or less than it was. Old wounds can’t be address and past trauma can’t be reconciled. They will remain open and unfinished.

This is the power of death. What death takes with it, we can never get back.

I told you this was dark.

But it’s love that longs for an answer. It’s love that desires renewal and change. It’s love that demands we try to find meaning.

But we’re powerless. This darkness has no meaning and it’s everywhere we turn. We are left with the simple reality that we must accept that we can do nothing more. That horrific, pointless pain has come and we cannot change it.

But what if we weren’t?

What if we could redeem it? What if we could reconcile all that was lost?

Wouldn’t you, even if it cost you dearly?

It’s the deep and unwavering love God has for us that caused Him to reconcile the death now a part of all of us. It was the crushing grief over the loss of relationship with us, the undeniable change in how we now interacted with Him that drove Jesus to do something.

Hate had nothing to do with it. Sin so greatly grieved the heart of God that His love motivated Him to do whatever it took to make redemption possible.

We so desperately miss the point when we make it about sin. It wasn’t about abolishing sin but about redeeming all that was lost. It was about a love so deep and a God who could do something we can’t.

Who could bring life to the dead and redeem the unredeemable. Who loved all of us, the dead parts as much as the rest.

It was grief motivated by love.

How did we ever let hate into the equation?

sin and death

What is sin?

Many of us would say something like “it’s missing the mark set by God.” While practically true I’ve found it to be increasingly less helpful when we can’t seem to decide what that mark is.

We don’t need to think hard to find vehement disagreements in Christian circles around what “the mark is.” So many of the issues the church talks about (read, argues like children) come down to differing opinions on sin.

One thing I don’t find a lot of disagreement about is the result of sin. Sin equals death. Now what death means and the imposition of some kind of post death justice is not even sort of clear even if you yourself think it is.

But there is this funny little part of sin we seem to all agree on. Sin, while we can’t define it, causes death and after death something happens but we also can’t decide on what that is.

So let’s talk about death since there is some semblance of agreement on that.

Death is horrible. It is darkens in its purest form. It is the result of the brokenness that now ravages this world. And while we may hate that people die, do we hate the one who dies? Especially if we really love them?

No, we grieve.

The more I struggle through this idea of God and hate the more I wonder if God responds to sin in us the same way we do to death.

Death is loss.

Death is disconnection.

Death is the severing of relationships.

And that all sounds a lot like what sin does between us and God.

Because of sin we are disconnect and it was sin that severed our perfect relationship with God. And so how does God feel about the parts in our lives where sin still has control? Does he hate those parts of us or does He grieve the loss? The loss of perfect relationship, grieve the disconnect it causes, grieve the trauma He knows the sin will cause in lives.

While we may hate an idea I think when that idea takes on a face, if we truly love that person, our response is no longer hate but grief over the profound loss that sin causes.

depth, darkness and all

This is going to be short.

More often than not I’ll recommend just listening but when you do speak consider these few thoughts on what to say. You can also check out this, this and this for some more ideas on supporting people in crisis.

Offer honest and real support. Don’t just say let me know If you need anything but tell them what you can and want to do. Say “I want to love you, here’s what I came up with. I want to do this with you.” Make it easy for them to be supported and loved.

Give them space to feel their feelings. People often don’t feel free to honestly explore and express how they actually feel. They think there is a way they are supposed to feel or a response they are supposed to have. Let them know that you’re ok with them being honest. Say “it’s ok to be honest with me. If you feel angry, hurt, flat, numb, happy, whatever. You don’t have to feel a certain way. If you want to talk about how you feel I’d love to listen. I just want to love you.” Let them feel what they feel and don’t try to direct it. Some people feel numb. They don’t really feel at all. They are told they are supposed to be sad but they just feel nothing. And then they feel guilt that they aren’t responding ‘the right way.’ Give space for the real expression of their feelings whatever they may be. Don’t look for one feeling or another but accept whatever it is they express.

Just keep affirming that you want to love them and be there with them.

The only advice I’d share with someone experiencing grief is “be gracious with yourself. Grief is a long tiring process. There is no time table.” Help them feel free to experience the process and not be too hard on themselves.

Love them. No expectations, just a journey you’re happy to go on with them, depth, darkness and all.

what not to say around death

Yesterday we talked about getting in the same space related to death. Briefly we talked about:

How as a society and church we don’t tend to do well with death.

Death is not something that can be fixed.

Death is not purposeful.

And then we ended with the question of what don’t we say?

I have a few thoughts. My list isn’t exhaustive but it covers a lot.

What not to say:

  • Everything will be ok
  • It’s for the best
  • God needed another angel
  • There’s some good in this
  • Don’t worry Gods in control. He’s got a plan.

You may disagree with some of these but overall here’s why I think we need to avoid this lines of conversation.

This is an emotional experience not one to be conquer with logic or reason. It’s a deeply person, visceral experience that force us to face and engage with parts of ourselves we don’t often have to. Death causes questions and confusion. The problem with these statements isn’t necessarily their factual truth, though some are not true, but rather how little help and possibly how much damage they can do to someone experiencing loss. It’s not the time for ideas and theory, it’s time for love.

Think of all the ways these kinds of statements can be interpreted, especially considering that the person doing the interpretation is in pain. Consider these statements from the position of someone morning loss. They could very easily see it like this.

Everything will be ok –It’s not that big a deal. In a little while this person and their loss won’t be as meaningful or painful to you. It minimizes what’s happening in that moment. “Just buck up you’ll be fine soon. Now isn’t that important.” But that person is trapped in the now, in the full experience of the now. We need to speak to their now not some possible whole future.

It’s for the best – someone how your pain and anguish are for the best. God’s best plan and the best plan for you and your loved one is for that loved one to no longer be in your life. That’s harsh. May dad was in pain for 13 years but even when he passed I’ve never seen it as ‘for the best’. The best would be a healthy dad who met my sons and saw the man I’m becoming. Not one who left years before his time. That’s not the best. Why can’t God just health the person, why is them dying for the best?

God needed another angel – this is so often said when a child dies. It paints God as some kind of selfish malevolent being. He made and gave you a child then changed His mind because He needed it more. He can speak things into existence but needed YOUR child. You don’t need them as much as God does. But make sure you go and ask God for healing a support after He took your child.

There’s some good in this – while I understand the goal, there isn’t. Death wasn’t part of God’s plan. There is no good. Do we think so little of God that He can’t fulfill His purpose unless someone is taken? He’s so constrained that He can’t do good without first horrible trauma. What possible good is here that requires my loss?

Don’t worry God’s in control. He’s got a plan – again, an omnipotent God that can’t do good without causing tram and harm. A God who WANTS bad things to happen to you. It’s part of His plan. Not how I would describe a loving God. Not how I would describe a God of infinite power and grace. God can use pain but when we talk about how God is in control and has a plan we imply that God wanted the bad to happen to fulfill His plan. Like an abusive partner that uses pain and coercion to keep someone under their control.

I talked about God in all of these but they all still apply if the person isn’t a person of faith. In that case there is nothing more. There is this life and that’s it. Saying it’s for the best that someone loss the only life they will ever have or any of the other statements is just a damaging.

The point here is that what you mean and what you say aren’t always the same thing. You can have all the best intentions and still be hurtful. Where you mean to bring healing you can bring greater pain. Be aware of the implications of what you say.

Often it’s better to say nothing. It’s better just to love in presence and in deed.

But if you must say something I’ve got a few ideas for you tomorrow.

death and loss

For something as universal and experience as death you might think we’d talk about it more. You might think we would understand the experience better. You might think we’d be better prepared to love those experiencing a death in their life.

But you know as much as I do that for all we might think when we look at death objectively, rarely is that the lived experience.

For worse, death will touch everyone. It will irrevocably impact your life at some point while you are still alive. Talking with a good friend has brought the topic back to mind.

We’re going to explore death a little.

We’re going to do that because society is terrible at supporting people and sadly the church isn’t often much better.

But we should be.

And we can be.

We will be.

Today we’ll touch on some fundamentals, staring points so we are all in the same space.

Death cannot be fixed.

While I understand how redundant a statement that is we still try. We try to make people feel better. To fix or change what cannot be fixed. Death is permanent. It’s dark and traumatic and often our best attempts to fix the experience end up minimizing it.

So we won’t try. We won’t fix this experience. We’ll be with people in the darkness not tell them the darkness isn’t there.

Death is not purposeful.

We won’t try to render meaning where they is none. This is so important I don’t want you to miss it. Death wasn’t part of the plan. So when we talk about death we have to be careful how we speak. We need to understand the implications of the words we choose.

God can bring good from evil but it’s never His plan. He doesn’t cause evil to happen so He can do good. Evil is a part of our world and death is wholly evil. God can bring redemption out of death but it’s not the purpose of death. It’s not why it happened and God’s ability to bring good from evil doesn’t detract from how evil something is.

It happens because we live in a dark fallen world and people need to be allowed to experience that darkness without it being minimized or overly spiritualized. It’s complicated enough experience loss we don’t need to complicate it with some theological controversy over God’s involvement in death.

God doesn’t want death.

God doesn’t cause death.

God is 100% with us during the darkness, but that darkness and pain are very real.

With that as our start we’ll look at how we respond to death tomorrow. If death cannot be fixed and death isn’t part of some bigger purpose what do we say?

Or rather to start what don’t we say?

redemption

Last week’s posts have been more out there than most of my stuff. Not a ton of practical stuff, more ideas. I think this will be the last one. We talked about what holds us back in the past but I thought it was such an appropriate time to talk about why we try to live the way we do.

This is about what I think the one of the biggest meanings of Easter is and more than that what the cross was about. Surprise, surprise I think it ties directly to compassion.

I suspect that if you’ve been involved with church for any period of time, you’ve heard a lot about why Jesus died.

He died for you and for me. He died so you could be saved from your sins. He died so you could avoid hell and live in heaven.

While perhaps not wrong this way of seeing Easter misses the true breadth of what happened.

I think it’s soooo much bigger than just you or just me.

I think the real purpose of it all is Jesus calling us into His holistic redemption.  We are now able to be a part of the redemption of EVERYTHING.

The message of the cross is redemption for everything and everyone and we get to be a part of it.

That’s why we get to share God’s love and grace in everything we do. That’s why we get to dive into the messiness of people’s lives. That’s why we get to open our lives to others, darkness and all.

Because we are a part of the redemption of everything. We don’t have to do these things, we get to.

Jesus didn’t come to save you from hell. Jesus came so you can be a part of Him redeeming everything.

If you don’t think that’s compassion then I feel like you and I are talking about two very different things.