It’s been a week. Not that long ago, I spent some time in the UK. I passed teens and twenty-somethings on the street. I smiled at their gregarious antics, laughed at their spontaneous music and art on the streets of London. I talked to strangers on trains and in bookstores. This week, I wonder if any of those people are grieving.
This week, I also think about veterans and those who followed Jesus’ teaching to its end when he said that a true friend will give his life for others. I think about my dad, who came home but never spoke of it, and my uncle who did not. I think of a friend’s son’s anguish over what he saw in war and could not unsee that overwhelmed him to take his own life. This is not an uncommon occurrence.
I wonder if this world that seems, at time, swept over with anger and violence is what they fought for and if they were here, would they believe they had won?
And then I found this old blog post, which seems more relevant now than four years ago. While we talk about persevering, I want to remember, on this Memorial Day weekend. I want to remember what’s worth persevering about. In the end, we can persevere through all kinds of things, but if they weren’t the things that mattered, why did we bother?
If we fight the good fight and then discover we fought the wrong enemy, what was the point?
If we were right all along but being right was not our task, what did it profit us to win the argument?
if we survive but don’t really live, why make the effort?
I want to persevere in holding out the things that bring joy to God and persevere in fighting the things that bring him grief. If anything will explain to you who I am and why I persevere for the things I do, it’s these events of four years ago. Especially the life and loss of a young man who made me question whether my life was governed by what really mattered or what I wanted to matter.
So, two funerals and a reality check. From four years ago.
I hate this.
A mutual friend put it well when she said, “I hate that we are mortal and I hate cancer and I hate satan.” I know exactly what she meant. This morning, I am hating the same things.
I hate death. I hate pain. I hate that parents grieve for their child and little boys will grow up without a father. I hate that some people will never see this gorgeous fall day.
But it goes deeper than that. I hate sin that brought death into this world. I hate that I am guilty of it. I hate that, if I went looking for the source of evil in the world, I’d find my own hands stained with the fruit of the Garden of Eden. I hate anger and unforgiveness and pride. The list is endless.
Making a List
It is making me realize more than ever what belongs on that list and what doesn’t. It’s putting into perspective what we mean when we toss around phrases like “I hate that teacher,” I hate my ex-wife,” “I hate fill-in-the-politician’s name.” I can’t hate any human being today, as I say goodbye to two I loved.
It’s an election season. There’s a lot of hate flying around out there. I have my opinions. But hate? I just can’t muster that up for any political candidate, any person who disagrees with me, or even, yes, any lunatic with a shotgun who barges into a movie theater. Not today. I’m occupied with hating more important things.
The real things. The roots of all this garbage. The things we’re all victims and perpetrators of at the same time. Sickness and cruelty and selfishness and apathy. Those things we once rightly called “sin” but are too fashionable to label so now.
I want to spend my energy and time hating those things. I want to use my life to fight those things. Not petty battles that only give way to more skirmishes on more subjects once they are out of the way. I never want to expend an minute of my limited time hating another human being. What’s the end game there?
I’m done with witch hunts and knowing everything and dividing people with categories that made me feel better but accomplished nothing real.
Hate and anger are serious things. They are not created for me to use as weapons. The only way I can beg Jesus to sanctify them in me is to use them where he did–against the powers that caused his friend Lazarus’ death, the injustice that left women to fend for themselves as best they could, the evil that offered him (and continually offers us) power in exchange for worship.
That’s a fight I want to persevere at. That’s a sanctification I want to persevere in seeking. Two men I loved are gone. They fought that fight. Sometimes they lost; in the end, they won. That’s the glory, and the reality, of these two funerals. Amen.