(Author’s Note: It is an honor and privilege to have my fellow Griefshare Facilitator Chuck Miller write the first guest post. He sent this as an email to his friends and after reading it, I emailed him asking if I could use it for today’s post. Thank you Chuck for allowing me to post your letter.)
Joy & Pain Coexist
Until recently, I never really understand how the contradictory ideas of Shakespeare’s line from Romeo and Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” could so intricately coexist. Not until this past year. We experience many partings in our lives. Some are temporary, ended, if only briefly, by a sweet reunion with those we love. Time and distance, work and family, a myriad of responsibilities all unfold upon us making it difficult to stay as connected as we would like. But joyously, the day comes when we re-gather and enjoy each other’s company, most often at holidays and special occasions.
Other partings, however, are more permanent, at least on this side of eternity. We endure the loss of those most precious to us, separations with no immediate promise of a heartfelt reunion, and partings painfully magnified by the holidays and the memories that flood upon us of what we once called our own, now forever gone. Death invades and claims those we hold dear, those we cherish. It snatches them from our lives, but never from our hearts or minds.
What makes this parting sweet, as sorrowful and devastating as it can be for us, is the knowledge that, one day, we will reunite. Today, as we recapture the narratives of our lives, the times spent cheerily together, we unearth a treasure of hopes and dreams we can still cling to in anticipation of the future. Not the ones we carefully planned together, but those God has gloriously prepared for us. When the last chapter of our story here is complete and the book is closed, we’ll meet once more and hold each other close, as we join our loved ones in heaven.
That’s our hope when we know Christ as our Lord and savior, when we have placed our faith in him to save us from our sins. And, that’s the reason we celebrate Christmas, his coming to earth to be born to live and to die … for us. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) It’s the hope we grasp tightly, especially so as we recount his gift on our behalf during the Christmas season. As much as the absence of those we cherished pains us, we can look forward to a sweet reunion to come. We cling to this truth amid our present loss and sorrow, as memories of days past with our loved ones rush upon our minds and hearts, and as their absence cuts to our souls.
For now, they live in our memories and hearts alone, but some day we will all live victoriously together. One day, the sorrow, loss, tears and parting will be forever erased … the day we gather together in the “sweet by and by” with Christ and all those precious, irreplaceable souls, our loved ones who have journeyed on ahead.
Amid your own pains and losses this Christmas, in the quiet moments of reflection the season brings, I wish for you the peace that only God can give and the hope of a bright and triumphant future. Merry Christmas!
Chuck Miller, a graduate of Baptist Bible College and Grace Theological Seminary, has filled pastoral roles at several churches, is a technology journalist and currently serves as a facilitator in GriefShare. Look for more of Chuck’s ramblings at his forthcoming website Nerd of God (nerdofgod.org), launching in early 2012. He presently resides in Brunswick, Ohio and shares his home with a large collection of dust bunnies.