I do not preach often on Sundays. The last time I did was that terrible day. It might be irrational, but the association between being in the pulpit and Jonathan's passing was for me unavoidable. In fact, earlier in the week I began to question whether I would be able to make it through. What would happen if the flood of emotion that has ambushed me so many times in the last two months found me on Sunday?
I arrived at church and settled into my office and the feeling of numbness lingered. In retrospect, I think the numbness was there to protect me. If I couldn't or wouldn't feel anything, I didn't need to worry about the possibility of a meltdown.
At some point I went into the sanctuary to pray as the musicians and singers rehearsed -- which I commonly do whether I am speaking on Sunday or not. It has become an important time of prayer for me, as I ask God to be present with us and to help us as a staff to minister to our church family and guests.
I don't know exactly what it was -- perhaps the worship music or maybe even the prayer itself -- but as I walked through the sanctuary the flood of emotion that I had feared would come began to build. I remember in that moment telling God that I was desperate for His presence and that if I was to make it through the morning it would have to be through His power. I felt for just a moment that I was being asked to do the impossible.
I would find out later that Pam had her own set of fears for that day. She was not worried necessarily about how the morning at church would go. But she did tell me later that if anything had happened to anyone else in our family that day she had already planned to tell me that I would NEVER be preaching again. I know, I know ... it is irrational to think that Jonathan's passing and my preaching that Sunday were in any way connected. But, honestly, Pam was not alone -- that thought had crossed my mind as well.
I raise all of this because our family is now in a season of "firsts." While nearly everyone else returned to their normal lives long ago (and that is not a criticism -- just a fact) virtually everything we do for the first time since Jonathan's passing requires that we travel through a sea of unpredictable emotions. And, sometimes our unpredictable emotions are accompanied by unpredictable and irrational thoughts and concerns as well.
I think that most people can understand this when they think of "big" events like Christmas and Easter, birthdays and Father's Day or Mother's Day. But those same emotions can overtake us in the "normal" course of life as well -- through the simple things. They can come the first time we eat at that restaurant that we often went to as a family, or watch a movie that Jonathan particularly enjoyed, or maybe even see someone from the past who was particularly close to our son. They can come when we happen on a picture that brings back memories or see a post by one of his friends on Facebook.
Still, I continue to marvel at how God is getting us through -- and particularly the strength and peace He has given my wife through this time. That is not to say that things are getting particularly easier or that our grief is already lessening. And, I know that the road ahead remains unpredictable and uncertain.
But Pam and I continue to pray for God to bring us peace, and to keep our family safe and healthy. We pray that the enemy would find no success in his efforts to exploit our emotions and thoughts. We pray that we will continue to draw closer to God, and that our family would be drawn even closer to one another. We pray that God would continue to give us the strength to be salt and light in this dark time. And, increasingly, we are able to pray for others, and not be completely consumed by our own needs and grief.
And, I must say that God really seems to be answering those prayers.
Finally, I would appreciate your prayers for a friend from high school named John, and for his family. One of his sons passed away recently following a tragic accident at college.
If you are interested, here is a link to that Palm Sunday service. Someone told me that Jonathan was probably watching and was proud of me. What a wonderful thought.