He walked over to my “temporary” desk while I substitute taught and the words abruptly and nonchalantly spilled from his mouth, “my dad just recently died.”
Taken aback, I looked up from the top of my glasses and the pile of papers I’d been sorting to place a face to the small voice that had just offered me such matter-of-fact information. A young boy of about ten years old with light-colored hair, freckles, and a fair skin tone stood just feet away from me.
My mind quickly searched for words of comfort to give and with concern shown on my face the normal cliché consoling-phrase jumped its way out, “I’m really sorry.” …and I really meant it, but as I offered those overused words, my heart felt unsatisfied and desired to extend on the moment.
While I knew this boy must be hurting deeply, most likely confused, and looking for an answer—outwardly he seemed to be handling the situation well.
However I couldn’t shake the fact that he must have wanted to visit because while the rest of his classmates were pleasantly preoccupied, here he stood in front of me, almost in an expectant (wondering) manner, having just divulged news that surely has rocked his world and not in a good way…I couldn’t just leave him dangling.
And so we talked…
I asked questions like what had happened, how old his dad was when he died, if he lived around here, and if he and his father were close, and this proud little son gladly answered each one. With a smile on his face all the while, he gushed over the thought of his dad as he shared even further memories. His smile grew the more we conversed and he’d giggle from time to time as he reflected on their time together.
I realize those questions I asked him may have seemed deep…but I’ve been there…I’ve stood at the desk of a teacher while barely being able to breathe and process my circumstances, not necessarily wanting an answer, but just needing therapy…verbal relational therapy…
Right before my graduating year of high school, I lost my dad to a car accident. My brothers were around the same age as this little boy who, while reminiscing, referred and spoke of his dad in present tense the whole time, which made it easy for me to recognize that he’s still very much in shock or even denial over his loss.
I get that also…
It’s been almost twenty years ago since my dad died but some days the devastation of his death still takes me by surprise and didn’t actually occur to me until more recent years. At the time of his passing I received a lot of support from friends, family, and teachers as well, and honestly I liked it…a lot. I was so consumed in all of the attention however, that I neglected to grieve the loss of my dad.
The further away I got from the details of how his death occurred and that moment of despair, the better I felt and no one pushed me to talk about it either…so as the years moved on, my dad’s death became this calloused-over wound which covered an old painful memory.
Looking back I see now how unhealthy that was…
Many years later, when I began following Christ, I was challenged to revisit hurtful memories and experiences so I could hand them over to God. I had to trust He was big enough to handle any sadness I had ever felt—any trouble, problem, or worry that held me back from fully committing my life to Him, which meant realizing some of my hurt came from years of bottled up emotions and thoughts regarding the car accident that took my dad’s life.
The more honest I became with God in all areas of my life, repenting and admitting even guilt and faults to Him (which He already knew anyways, Hebrews 4:13) the more complete I felt. Eventually I learned to focus on the beauty of all the sweet memories I had of the time I spent with my dad, not dwell in discontent over the ones that never got to happen as the result of a life cut far too short…
So as this little boy gloated to me over his dad as I filled his absent teacher’s desk, I wondered how in the midst of an unfair incident and at such a young age, he was able to be so brave and handle it with peaceful-hope and enthusiasm…and then as if he read my mind, with a grin on his face and confidence in his youthful voice, he revealed something simple and practical, yet awe-inspiring, “but he’s in Heaven now.”
But He’s in Heaven now…
Those simple, yet profound words are filled with such hope; this boy wasn’t about to allow the enemy (Satan) to rob him of all the precious memories he had of his dad, because he held on to the hope of his daddy living now in Heaven. He showed a smile on his face, love in his heart, and hope for the future—all because he held on to and trusted God’s truths.
Jesus said in John 5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes Him (God) who sent me, has eternal life and will not be judged, but has crossed over from death to life.” and again in John 11:25, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”
Most all of us encounter seasons of hurt and loss in our lives, but as Christians, when a fellow believer leaves this world we can trust God and hold on to the assurance of their continued life (soul) in Heaven (Ecclesiastes 12:7, 2 Corinthians 5:8)…that divine, but sobering thought is what “resting in peace” should truly resemble.
If you’ve never experienced the loss of a close loved one, remember that Christ longs to be ever so close to each of us and His perfect love runs deep— he’s already died an unforgettable, remarkable, and life-giving death for you and I both…but HE’S in Heaven now…where He desires us to be with Him one day…
Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.