Faith Reflections

My Funeral

In a society that tells us to have everything all planned out, to know exactly where we are headed, we fail to trust God in what He is planning. We are trained to want total control. But it’s when we put our unabashed faith in He who formed us that we let our obedience to God lead the way. God wants to bless us beyond what we can ever fathom, but only when we put our faith in Him and lose our will to get it all figured out by ourselves does His plan begin to unfold. – Kate Goodell

The Raised Bones of Arlington National CemeteryI read this quote in an article in Relevant Magazine in July 2005 and it immediately made it into my collection of quotes. I was frightened by how well this Kate knew me and captured me in words even though she never met me. Control has always been an issue for me. I have a need to have it all figured out and I fight relinquishing control. God and I have had tons of wrestling matches in our relationship. Although I can see a ton of improvement in this area in the past eight years, it is still hard for me sometimes to just let go and to have the “unabashed faith” that Kate mentions. It’s not really a power trip thing – it’s a scared thing. Control mean safety; knowing means security. Lack of both of these have made me physically ill in the past.

Every year during Holy Week, I return to an altar of sorts – an altar built in 2005 during Holy Week after a funeral. My funeral. I want to share with you the story of that funeral because every year during Holy Week I celebrate and remember what God did for me that night – March 21, 2005 – when He met me in a cemetery and helped me grieve over the loss of control and knowing. The following is from my journal the next morning.

I have been moving a few days ago to the knowledge that I will never have satisfactory answers when it comes to God. I search and search for a place that I can manufacture where I am pleased with every aspect of God and it all makes sense. But even while I sit in this manufactured room I’ve created, I can never forget that it is merely a stage of one dimensional props and backdrops that I’ve designed to try and fake myself out. But it never works. You never let me forget that it is my design, not Yours and thus, it is flawed.

For awhile, I had been planning a spiritual funeral for this week – after our Maundy Thursday service. Seemed appropriate. I was going to spend some time this week preparing for the night but You needed to take back control. Ironically, I was trying to control my death of control because I feel I must be in control at all times – even when I am needing a spiritual funeral to kill and bury sin in my life. But You threw that out the window last night – Monday. I had supper with two friends and felt led to share with them my recent struggles with You and my plans. This opened the flood gates in unsuspecting ways and I knew You were calling me to grieve that night – regardless of my plans and to show my plans mean nothing.

So that Monday I excused myself from dinner early and went to the cemetary. Parking my jeep in the farthest corner, I sat in the dark, quiet of that place as it rained. And You and I began a journey together. I had ideas of us working to a conclusion – to some resolutions that I would be comfortable with. I had unspoken expectations of what would happen and ran into barrier after barrier as I tried to “manufacture” my funeral. You were firm to remind me that I was still trying to be in control, to figure things out to reason. I cried. I thought. I challenged but to no real avail. I could never come to a why – a “why I have such a need to be in control” and “why I can’t trust You” other than I am scared and vulnerable – two feelings I detest. So afraid of people hurting me and of being disappointed. I don’t know why that is.

For awhile You have given me this image of a deep ravine with waves and rocks far below. Hovering over this deep canyon in the image of a cloud, You call me to come and leap into Your arms. But I can’t. At the beginning when You would start calling me to leap to You, I would stand on the edge and look down and be afraid. There is this undescribable pull towards You and I felt like it was going to suck me over the edge. The problem was I didn’t believe You would catch me. I felt like I would plummet to the bottom. So I stepped back from the edge and found a tree trunk to grab hold of. This dream has happened in stages over the past few weeks. By our time together last night [at the funeral], I was fully wrapped around the tree and my knuckles were bleeding as I gripped for dear life. The pull from You was becoming so strong that I was in a tornado, losing my grip and feeling like my insides would be sucked out of my body. I was so torn and hurt and tired. I wanted to let go so badly. I know that You were safe but I couldn’t – wouldn’t – trust You. Last night as we began our wrestling, I was trying to figure out ways to pry my fingers one by one from the stump, but I couldn’t find a way. I couldn’t figure out how. So, I finally broke down and asked You for help. Like a little child, I asked with complete vulnerability if You would come over and get me. And instantly everything went still. And You were beside me. You gently took my hands from the tree and placed them around Your neck and You carried me with complete strength back to hover magnificiently and safely in Your arms over the canyon. I’ve never felt such Peace.

It was after this time in the funeral that I was repeatedly reminded of two things:

1. “The fear of others lays a snare, but one who trusts in the Lord is secure.” Prov. 29:25
2. “I don’t know and that’s okay”.

It’s going to be okay. I don’t have all the answers, I never will. I won’t understand, I never will. I won’t be safe all the time, but I will be secure. I will fail, but I’m not a failure.

The next morning after my spiritual funeral, I felt like I had been hit by a mack truck. My body literally ached all over. My muscles were spent and it was my morning after reminder of all the wrestling that had gone on with God the night before. It reminded me of the passage in Genesis 32 where Jacob wrestles with the angel. I’ve always wondered how Jacob’s resulting limp could be seen as a blessing but after that morning, I understood. Jacob’s limp would always serve as a rememberance of God meeting Him and loving Him enough to wrestle with Him. Even though the physical aches of that night healed, my resulting vision from that night serves as my limp to remind me of God’s faithfulness and strength in my life.

I still have to “put to death” the need to have it all figured out. But every Holy Week I return to the altar to remind myself to put my unabashed faith in a God I can trust. A God who holds me and my future securely. A God, who when I finally called, came and rescued me.

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