And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying…. Instead, strive for his kingdom… (Luke 12:29,31)
For the next several entries of “Notes,” I will be sharing how I am coping and dealing with my daughter’s death this summer. As I said in my last entry, although my words are going to be deeply personal, it is my prayer that what I write will be helpful to you and that, ultimately, the Lord Jesus may be made present.
In today’s scripture passage, Jesus is trying to change the disciples’ perspective on what matters the most. It is not what they eat or drink or wear. No, what matters the most is God’s kingdom and how they are seeking it and sharing it.
I have never been forced to change my perspective as I have been forced to in the last three months. Anna’s death has shifted how I see and think about nearly every aspect of my life.
During the drive Lucy and I took in early July to get to Maine, I spent many of the 2,000 miles brooding, machinating, stewing, worrying, and trying to redo things that could not be redone. If only I had said this or done that. How could I have been so foolish? How can we work through this problem? Who do I need to speak to? Why did that person act and speak that way? How can I break through the petty politics of a certain task force? I think you get the drift.
About a week after we arrived in Maine, I received a call informing me that my daughter had died. For the next several weeks, all of my time, attention, and energy went into my heartbreak, the burial plans, the service, and the reception for family and friends. As I began to emerge from this whirlwind of grief, I tried to recall what I had been so tangled up with on that long drive. Many of the items I couldn’t remember, and those I did remember simply didn’t matter.
There is nothing like writing your child’s obituary that can change your perspective on what’s important and what’s not. Death does have a way of getting our attention and compelling us to rearrange our priorities. One would think that, given the hundreds of funerals I have performed, I would never have lost the razor-sharp focus that losing a loved one can give—but too often I did; may I never do so again.
I don’t want to be grim or unfeeling in what I am about to say, but I pray that Anna’s death will yield more life for me in ways I had not anticipated. Now, I would trade in an instant what I am learning for Anna to have a life again, but that’s just not possible.
I spent much of the 2,000-mile trek to Maine worrying about things that really didn’t much matter. How much time and energy, and concern I have wasted on things of little consequence. So many of the things I feared didn’t happen, and if they did happen, they weren’t as bad or as painful as I had anticipated.
So, what does matter the most? Jesus says that it is the kingdom of God—that is, for us to live into God’s ways, God’s purposes, and God’s desires. What else matters most? Love and grace and hope and joy. All we will someday want to take from this life to the next is the love we received, the love we gave, and the love we shared.
- If you acknowledged—at least sometimes and not in a morbid way—the reality that you will someday die and that everyone you love will as well, how do you think your perspective would change?
- What are the things that cause you to stew and chew and worry? Which things do you think Jesus might want you to let go of?
- The reality of my daughter’s death will, I pray, bring more urgency, accountability, and focus into my remaining days. What would help you to stop wasting time on things that don’t much matter so that you could have a fuller life, a clearer mind, a deeper soul, and a more abundant heart?