Friday, December 3, 2010

Funerals and Grace

I will be attending a funeral today, and the reflections I have been sharing about grace are resounding strongly in my mind. The death of a relative or loved one forces us into an intensive kind of reflection about the life, love, and experiences we share with others. Death also forces us to confront the aspects of our relationships that are left unresolved. None of our relationships are perfect; and even in the best of circumstances, we all reflect on what we wish we had said or done in addressing those unresolved issues.

The graveside is one of the places in our lives where we most need grace. All of the intimacies of a lifetime—all of the love, the good, the bad, the anger, the slights, the competition, the neglect, the oversights, the bitter memories, the disagreements, the misspoken words, the unfulfilled needs, the unresolved tensions, the postponed intentions, and so many other confused emotions—seem for a moment to rise to the surface. We need grace.

We re-experience those intimacies with tears, regret, joy, sorrow, guilt, loss, pain, grief, emptiness, and despair. Never again will we be able to touch, hug, kiss, converse, share, cry, forgive, confess, laugh, celebrate, or reminisce with the deceased. We need grace.

Too often our emotions spill over into our relationships with those with whom we continue to live and relate. Family relations can be strained. Blame, anger, despair, and ruptured relationships can intensify. We need grace.

My recent reflections on grace, however, should remind us that grace is not only something we need—it is something we must give. In times of grief, we focus on our loss and forget that others need grace. They too are feeling grief and loss. They too are struggling with mixed emotions. They too have regrets. Grace can carry us beyond our grief into the shared experience of new life, new relationships, and a new future.

Grace reminds us that something good can lie beyond the graveside. Grace has within itself the power of resurrection—the power of forgiveness, reconciliation, hope, and love. Grief is not only resolved through hope; it can be healed through grace. Peter admonished his readers, “Minister the same one to another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10, KJV). Let us minister to one another today in that kind of grace.

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