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"The Beauty of Pain"


"A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance"

Ecclesiastes 3:4

The wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3 is that of contrast, almost seemingly opposites. I remember writing the words down on paper years ago, "Beauty and Pain, to the extent you enjoy one you will also experience the other." They are inseparable as the only way to truly know and understand beauty is to also experience pain. Think about it, how would we know what sweet was like on our pallet if we didn't also know the taste of bitter. The comparisons are endless. April 12 will always be a day filled with beauty and pain for our family and some dear friends.

Beauty, in that it was on April 12, 2012 my wife and I received the news that we were going to be grandparents for the very first time. Beauty, as mine and my wife's best friends daughter Danielle, who also happened to be our daughter Bree's best friend was born on April 12, 1987. And like I said, April 12 is also a day of pain in that our friends daughter who would be celebrating her birthday today went home to be with Jesus on August 20, 2004 at just 17 years old leaving us to celebrate her birthday year after year without her here. As I think about Danielle today, there is beauty in knowing she will forever be my favorite "What If". More pain, as it was on April 12th that my dad went home to be with Jesus in 2014. Like I said, to the degree you experience one you will also experience the other.

As I think about the paradox of April 12 the words of Pascal come to mind. "What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself."

There is a richness to Pascal's words and yet I think like so many others I have come to enjoy equally as well a quote that is attributed to him that in fact he never said, "There is a God shaped void in every human heart that only He Himself can fill." I truly believe that statement is true but as the years pass I am just as convinced that when we truly love someone created in the image of God and we become separated by death there remains a void in our hearts that no one else can fill. At least I know that to be true for me regarding Danielle and my Dad and Mom. Enough time has passed since their deaths that if something or someone could replace them or fill the empty spot in my heart I would have already discovered it. With regard to those I love who are no longer here with me, there is a you shaped void in my heart that no one else can fill.

The bible tells us, "All things work together for good to them that love God and who are called according to His purposes." In the midst of the pain April 12th brings I have discovered beauty in that grief changes us. It sculpts us, transforming us into someone who understands more deeply, who hurts more often, appreciates more quickly, cries more easily, hopes more desperately and loves more openly. Yes, if you look closely through the tears you find beauty amidst the pain.

Cathe Laurie, wife of Pastor and Evangelist Greg Laurie wrote a blog regarding the celebrating of her son Christopher's birthday that fell on Easter Sunday. Christopher, like Danielle was killed in an automobile accident, his in 2008, and on his birthday anniversary this year she wrote, "This is the gift we were given, in wrapping too horrible to imagine. I couldn't bear to open it, but tenderly wrapped in all those tear-stained tissues was a shining gem…faith more precious than gold, tested in the fire. What we believed was real. Jesus is real. He was with us in the furnace. His Word is true." Cathe's words captured so eloquently the beauty and pain that comes with discovering God's purposes through the life as well as the death of someone you love.

Speaking of beauty and pain. Author J.K. Rowling, in her book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone writes, "To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever." I cant speak for the rest of the world or even those closest to me but for me I have found that statement to be true. I feel comfortable in saying I believe Sherrill, Danielle's Mom feels the same way too. For Sherrill to know her daughters last words to her the morning Danielle stepped into eternity were, "I Love You Mommy" as she raised her head from the sofa and looked at her mom with her radiant smile as Sherrill headed out the door for work has provided a mothers heart protection forever. Yes, loved one, there is beauty in pain if only we would look at it and not turn away. The beauty in pain is discovered in that it sensitizes us to the world around us and causes us to cry out to God, the only one who can calm the storms that rage within us as we wrestle with the loss of the ones we love.

April 12th will forever be a bittersweet day but the good news is that with each passing year it becomes less bitter and much more sweeter as we choose to focus on the beauty knowing the pain is inevitable. So many wonderful lessons to go along with a lifetime of memories still being made until we all meet again one day. The words to a song by Garth Brooks titled, "The Dance" play in my head today and capture in many ways what my heart feels. The words go like this,
"Looking back on the memory of

The dance we shared 'neath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you'd ever say goodbye

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance"

The beauty has become two-fold these days as more grand babies have been born and the beauty of life is magnified through each one of them in ways I could have never imagined. Yes, I am glad that I didn't know the way it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, But I'd have had to miss the dance, and oh what a dance it has been.

I live today with hope, the same hope I had with each memorial service we have celebrated. It's not goodbye, its see you soon! Until then I recall to my mind...

"Thou hast turned my mourning to dancing for me, Thou hast loosed my sackcloth, And girdest me with joy."

Psalm 30:11 (YLT)


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