“Our father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
How does one process a year bookended in grief?
One year ago, squirreled away at a local Starbucks clamoring for a brief moment to myself, I penned these words, “We have been a family of six for 21 days. I know this is only the beginning of a journey that will strip us of any pride, any illusion that we are in control of our days.”
Little did I know 365 days later, as the sun had just begun its day I would be holding the hand of a dear friend wrecked with grief over the loss of her young husband. Taken suddenly, without warning, decades too soon. As her village of people streamed into that sterile hospital room tears flowed, shock hung heavy in the air, and questions clogged our throats.
Eyes locked one with another straining to syphon even an ounce of her pain among the lot of us. Wishing we could alter reality. Longing to make this painful news somehow not be true. For her. For her three young children. For those who loved this man of God so very much.
As we all staggered out into the December cold, not knowing what the next minute would hold, a text from my father reset my focus. On the other side of town, my 93-year-old grandfather was taking his last breaths. With family surrounding his bed, stroking his hands and caressing his face we whispered words of freedom into his near deaf ears. Prayers were lifted high asking Jesus to relieve his pain.
To usher him into the heavenly realms.
To bring him home.
Just where is this nebulous place?
My physical mind tethers me to the confines of this world.
How can home be anywhere else besides here?
Gravity limits. Logic fails. Grief confuses.
As I crack open the spine of God’s holy book grasping for any word that might breathe life into these dry bones, my eyes settle on the words of the Apostle Paul who claims our, “citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).
All things, both living and dead are subjected unto Christ himself.
There we sit.
Out of control, precariously balanced in a holy paradox.
One man taken up in the blink of an eye. Half of his life still to come. Now viewed from the vantage of Christ’s veil.
The other laboring over last breaths. Heart longing to leave. Failing body somehow hanging on. Finally slipping into the hands of our Savior after a long, arduous fight.
Once again, questions mount. And answers do not seem to come.
The shapes and spaces we call home shelter us only so much, often leaving us vulnerable to unpredictable elements.
We realize that home is not found in a person, nor in a place, nor in a thing.
Though, in His mercy, the Lord provides sojourners with whom to interlock hearts along the way as we seek shelter together. A nomadic village of fellow travelers searching for “home” becomes temporary respite for the journey.
Rather, I would argue yet again that home morphs into a Jesus-shaped space.
Though no map can hold its image, its image is found in us.
Inside a Jesus-shaped heart, we can fit the whole world.
Both in the present and in the life that is to come.
Though the sting of death is fresh and in moments of sadness we may feel as Paul did, the desire “to depart and be with Christ [and I will offer, our loved ones as well], for that is far better,” his charge to the living is clear:
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…” (Philippians 1:27).
While there is breath left in our mortal bodies, may we travel on together…
Searching for home among pleasant inns along the way, never forgetting the ultimate destination.
Until we meet again in heaven’s grasp…
David Paul Aldridge (April 22, 1973 – December 21, 2012)
Robert Claud Bradley (March 30, 1919 – December 23, 2012)