Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Feeling (and filling) the Void

For the past few days my team and I have been helping prepare for a wake. The father of one of our students passed away in a car accident, so we have been moving wood for the fires, bringing other students up to hang out and help out, and most times, simply being there. For the Apache tribe a death means a 2 day wake, where people stay up with the body for 48 hours straight. The days before the wake are spent preparing for it. Preparing the food, clearing the land, putting up the metal structures, because for 2-3 days there will be people, fires, food, and mourning. Still after the wake comes the funeral. All in all it is a long drawn out process of saying good-bye after a very sudden loss. And these sudden losses happen all too often around here.

A few months ago, as I was preparing to come out to Arizona I had a crisis of faith that had to deal with a similar type of sudden loss, though it was not a person close to me. In a tragic and rare course of events, a young college student died. I had only met her once, but she was one of those people that impacts you the moment you meet her. She was so kind, energetic, made you feel valued, and loved the Lord with everything she was. And with one small decision, one small mistake, she was gone.

To me, it wasn't fair. We had all prayed so hard after the accident, and she was so amazing I felt like she deserved to live a long life, to be married, to have an impact. And in that moment (I remember it so clearly), as I cried and mourned her death, I gave in to the creeping doubt of God's existence. All of a sudden I began to think that I was the one who had been a fool. I had been foolish for believing and trusting so eagerly in a God that couldn't possibly exist.

That moment was clouded in a darkness I've never known before or since. As the thought passed through my head that God did not exist,the room became void, dark, and scary in a way I had never felt before.
Immediately the fear from my previous statement threatened to overwhelm,and I began praying desperately. I prayed and cried out, asking God to forgive me and not to leave me. I begged and begged Him not to leave me, and the room lost the scary feeling of being so incredibly alone and so very far from God.

That moment was restorative for me. To feel the void of being separated from God was transforming, for I knew that my doubt had been unfounded. Though the death seemed unfair I had to realize that God was still God and that He was still in control. I had to realize that life is precious and valuable, and that each day should be lived not in fear, but in purpose.

 And so as I spend these days preparing for the wake, mourning with those who mourn, I hold tight to the promise that this life is not all that there is. There is a promise that though this is our time of grief, one day Jesus will return, and as it says in John, no one will be able to take away our joy. In this time, though I don't have the words to fix the hurt, I do have the promise that Jesus has overcome the world, the sorrow, the disappointments. And I have the belief, that among the pain and sadness, God is real and alive and moving among us.

And I praise Him, because He is still with me, walking alongside me as I figure out this crazy messy world. And I praise Him because He has blessed me with the job of walking alongside some of the best, craziest, messiest kids in the world. And no matter what the days ahead bring, I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. 

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