Beauty for Ashes

When in doubt about what to do about anything…feed people. That is the Baptist way. Last night was no exception as we said good-bye to Pastor Alan and Becky. It was heart wrenching and heart warming all at the same time. In the south, funerals are social events where you share stories of the deceased, laughing and crying together about shared experiences. Fortunately for us, Alan and Becky are still alive and kicking. (Even though it kind of feels like a funeral to be saying good-bye) They were there to witness the impact they have had on the lives of literally hundreds of people who showed up to honor them. I watched as droves of people stood in line to give them one last hug. Most were being brave and attempting not to cry, many were unable to hold back the tears. How touching it must have been for Alan and Becky to hear words of encouragement from so many, and how hard. They fought back tears repeatedly, and I know that emotional exhaustion must have set in at some point in the evening, but they stood bravely until the last person came through, ending what must have been one of the longest days of their lives.
Personally, I am still grieving. I have talked with many who are excited about the future…but I am not ready to go just yet. I cannot handle this monumental loss so quickly. It comes in waves and tears are part of the package. I believe that it is a spiritual loss I am feeling rather than a physical one. After all, I know I will see them again…it is not that part of it that starts my tears flowing. It is what this means to us as a body….and we are a body. One part is missing…a very important part and it leaves a hole, an empty place. Whether you liked Alan’s style or not (no pastor can please everyone) you have to admit his care for those in is flock was genuine. He made people feel valued and important. You have to respect a man who stands by his convictions and worships his God so publicly.
It is tough for a family to live in a fish bowl so graciously, especially when we have not always made it easy. But we, as a body, and he, as a pastor, have grown together over the years. Maturing is part of the process. We have adjusted to the fact that all of his points must start with the same letters. (Some of us have secretly started to like it.) We have chuckled at Becky’s rabbit trail signals to get him back on track. We have added the sound/word duhh into our vocabulary. All the personal nuances have wiggled their way into our hearts until we realize he is a part of us…and we of him. That kind of connection cannot be undone without significant pain. It is a ripping that pulls us apart emotionally, because he is our spiritual authority as a pastor…our covering who has willingly taken that role. And most of us, have willing submitted ourselves to his leadership.
Now we must trust that he has heard from God that it is time for our ways to be parted. It is hard to trust when our hearts are breaking. The whole situation seems unfair and just plain wrong. Yet we smile and nod on the outside because we know they would not leave if God did not speak it. But the inside is a totally different matter. We know we will never replace him, for he is one of a kind. I don’t really think we would want to, but still our hearts are heavy with the burden they continue to carry. They leave hurting for us, and for their son, with their world turned upside down. We want to help…to walk through it with them as he has done for us in our personal trials, but we cannot go with them. That stings after all he has done for us. We want to at least feed them or something. We see a broken man and woman who have yet to emerge from their new painful reality, and we can do nothing but watch them walk in it alone. Our encouragements and prayers are certainly affective on their behalf, but there must be more. Right? Nope. Faith that God knows the needs and that he will meet them will have to be enough. We have to walk on knowing that we will always be a part of each other in our shared history. We have to know that friendship in God is never good-bye, but see you later. For now, we grieve, until God releases the heaviness of our hearts and pours the healing balm of his spirit over us. Then he will turn our sorrow into joy, and give us beauty for ashes. We will move forward knowing that God is not finished with Concord, and that he has plans for us…the Promised Land awaits.

One thought on “Beauty for Ashes

  1. The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write
    one story, and writes another, and his humblest hour is when he compares
    the volume as it is, with what he has vowed to make it. (Barrie)

    I am satisfied with, and stand firm as a rock on the belief that all
    that happens in God’s world is for the best, but what is merely germ,
    what blossom and what fruit I do not know.(Fichte)

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