Death Has A Sting

Tombstone, Howard Street, Ocracoke Island, 2017

I’m in a constant state of mourning. Grief hangs around like body odor on an old couch. I’m tired, nauseous, a little dizzy, and not sure what to do next. My check list says pray.  Always be praying.  ABP or was it Always be Christianing?  I can’t remember.  Too many acronyms in this business.  Isn’t that what they say in the nuclear missile silos?  You live and die by your checklists.

Right now, I’m having trouble finding the words. What do I tell God on this beautiful afternoon? I am grateful to be alive. Yes. But is that a prayer? I need to pray. Something about today demands prayer. I don’t need to pray about the United Methodist Church, re-fighting the Civil War, or ordaining gay clergy. Oh, I can fight the culture war battles all day long. Give me a Gatorade and a couple hours of sleep and I’m fine for another day. Right now, I’m a million miles away from what I thought mattered ten minutes ago. Those things matter but words fail me now. Holy words seep through my fingers like water on a hot summer day. The words are not there. I speak silence.  My prayers are silent.

The onslaught of death has worn me out. Onslaught is a strong, medieval word. I know this. I choose it purposefully. Death is like an invading army laying siege to the once safe fortress I called my life. The people I’m called to shepherd die with all too regular frequency. Others in my church are being diagnosed with forms of terminal cancer at a rate of almost one or two persons per week. Psalm 23 speaks of the “valley of the shadow of death”. I would hope, statistically speaking, there would be a peak on the other side. Our valley is a road that just keeps going. I want off this death road.

This morning, my wife’s sister (my sister-in-law) and beloved aunt to our three daughters was killed in an automobile accident. I’m growing weary of preaching that death has lost its sting. Death stings; to pretend any different is to lie. Paul helps us put on a brave face but it doesn’t face the fact. Even with Jesus in your heart, death hurts. Death still has a sting.