Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Coat

Tonight, we attended a Service of Resurrection. If you think you've never attended one, I'll bet you have; people usually call it a funeral. 
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Now, before we get too far here, I need to confess something. Are you ready to give me grace? Here it is: I hardly ever wear skirts or dresses anymore, even to church. I blame this development on one thing: all the years I dressed like an octogenarian before I was even 20. For the time being, I guess I've just grown out of leggings and tights (but not literally!).

So tonight, I spent forever trying to figure out what to wear to the funeral. The service was for an 18-year-old girl from our church, a senior killed in a car accident two weeks ago. So many people were expected at the ceremony that they held it in the high school gym. And it was a packed house. 

In my closet, I scrounged through the odd selection of items I've collected since I stopped working: clothes I wore to work five years ago, clothes I've grown out of, clothes I've shrunk out of, and (the vast majority) clothes that are NOT appropriate outside the front door (or possibly even inside). Holes, stains, spots. . . use your imagination. After a prolonged search, I ended up choosing a black dress I found hiding in the back of the closet. When Chloe saw me in it, she said, "Wow, Mommy. You look fancy!" And I guess compared to the usual Sunday morning jeans, I did.

But the truth is, I was bone cold and a little out of place all evening. As it turns out, wearing a little black dress isn't a good idea in February, and it was six degrees outside. My blood froze, and I wore my black wool coat like a second skin. It stayed there all night. Dress-schmess.

Of course, funerals are about remembering the person who's passed and not really about wardrobe. (This isn't going to stay shallow, guys.) But the other side of the coin is that unfortunately, I never got to know the girl whose life we celebrated tonight. I was at the funeral for the grieving kids, the ones whose Sunday school class we teach. I just wanted to be available. But the fact is we're still getting to know each other, and it's a little early for the whole pour-your-heart-out thing. 

In short, I was an awkward, wool-wrapped ice cube tonight. All those attempts at preparation, and I still ended up snuggled in my coat.

At the end of the service, Pastor asked us to prepare our hearts for what was coming next. As we sat in silence, I could hear people sniffling, and I'd just started to wonder how to prepare when he closed with this: 

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant ___. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

We heard those words prayed over this child's life, and I swear you could hear hearts snapping like branches. I didn't even know her, but my heart cracked a little, too. It was the word "prepare" that got me. "Prepare your hearts for this moment," he'd said, and we'd bowed our heads like children. But how could we prepare? 
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The very thought of being prepared for a moment like that -- for letting go -- is unthinkable. I don't know how you do that. I still have dreams where I'm talking to my Nenaw, and I'm crying before I'm even fully awake. I don't know how to prepare for those moments. 

What I do know is that I held my rambunctious Princess tighter after those words. I tried to put myself in the shoes of that grieving mama -- same as all the other mamas did -- and I hugged my blonde little girl. I worried her hair until she brushed me off, clutched her hand on the way to take communion. And I realized I will in no way ever be prepared for the moment Pastor described. 

But then maybe that's the thing. We can't prepare. We can love Jesus and worship and pray and fast - but we'll still be those ancient disciples who kept staring at the clouds, waiting for Jesus to turn right around and come back.

As I watched that mama tonight, grieving with her own head bowed, I knew this: We will not ever be ready. No heart is ready for letting go. But even when we're not, when our limbs are ice and our blood is cold and the frost has sunk into our bones, we can be covered. We'll come to Jesus in our shabby digs, feeling winter in our summer clothes, and He will not be surprised. He'll cover us with His wool coat, and He'll become our second skin, and He will thaw our icy hearts so we can heal. 

He is, you see, prepared. 

And that's more than enough.

Thawing out, 

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