On Saturday my family and I celebrated the life of my beautiful cousin, Maryann, and delivered her body to its final resting place. As I mentioned two messages ago, Maryann was viciously murdered by her ex-boyfriend; the horrible conclusion to a silent domestic violence roller-coaster ride.
- I will never forget the face of the body staring back at me from the casket… because it did not look like that of Mary (as she was affectionately known).
- I will never forget the look of anguish and immeasurable pain that pierced the faces of Mary’s parents as they buried their youngest daughter… while cradling Mary’s precious son in their arms.
- I will never forget the heartfelt words that were uttered, honoring the life of a young dove who was just learning how to fly.
- Yet, more than anything, I will never forget how God healed a collective family and individual family members as we gathered together on Saturday morning.
I don’t know about you, but my family- on both sides- has wrestled with years of animosity and distance between family members. Can you relate to having family issues that go back farther than you can even see or understand? I’m talking about generational curses, I mean, issues, that predate the matriarch of your family- is this just my family, or have you experienced it, too? Despite all of the problems that have plagued both sides of my family for generations and decades, God has picked 2019 to end it all. He has selected this season of our lives to say, “there is life after death.” And, Beloved, I am saying to you, there is wonderful, prosperous life that begins after death.
Open your hearts and read the passages below:
1 Corinthians 15: 49-57
49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—
52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 4: 31-32
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Beloved, if there is one thing that I know, once we are born, we have one guarantee- death. At some point our earthly bodies will fail and our spirits will be reunited with our Father. As my friend said, our tombstones will have a beginning date and an ending date, in between will be a dash (-); we must live our best dash life. To add to that, during our dash life we are bound to encounter pain and sorrow that seems to be the worst thing that has ever happened to us. I know I’ve had my share of pain- have you? If not, as the old-time saints would say, “just keep on living.” Yet no matter how much pain we have experienced and however we chose to cope with/heal from it (if we did this at all), one thing is also for sure- we blamed someone for our pain and struggled with forgiving them.
Growing up it seemed like everyone had hurt me in some way. No, I wasn’t “overly sensitive,” but it did seem like I was the target for cruel treatment from others. From the rape to incessant mocking to snide remarks about my weight to criticism about my American father and my nationality- it just seemed like my pain was always the goal of those around me. I struggled with knowing how to accept myself as a person, much less how to forgive those who hurt me so frequently and with no regard. And as sure as my name is Michelle, I was confronted with every ounce of pain as I fully committed my life to God’s service. Which brings me back to the point of this message- life after death.
In our humanity, we tend to think that when a person dies that the world has stopped and that nothing can ever be as it once was. Well, only a part of that is true. When our loved one dies, something does change, and life as we knew it will never be the same. I wholeheartedly believe that death comes to remind us of the brevity of life and push us to love and forgive as Christ did. The life that exists after death is the newness that comes when we mend broken relationships and build bridges instead of walls. That life is precious and must be nurtured constantly.
When I say that there is life after death, I am not referring to the miracles that Christ performed (and is still performing) by literally raising people from the dead. I’m not even referencing how we now live because of the death of Christ and how we continue to live in Him as we continue to die to our flesh. Those are great and true examples that I will likely cover at another time, but I’m currently referencing how we begin to live again when we bury animosity and discord, choosing instead to walk in love and light. We let die the things of the past- the generations of pain, hate, and malice- and let live the joy and hope of the future. That’s the life after death that I mean. When we choose to forgive, like really allow God to heal us from our past pains and allow Him to render punishment and judgment unto others, we take the sting out of it all and give the power back to our God.
Today I can’t help but think of the life that is beginning after the death of my cousin. When I looked around the church during the repast, I saw three generations of family playing and laughing together, forgetting the past and praying for the future. Hate was replaced with harmony and disdain with delight. We really were kind and compassionate, choosing to repair and develop relationships instead of dwelling on the pain of the past. There was and is beautiful life after a tragic death.
Even as I close out this message, I can read where I bounced from the literal sense of life after death, to the figurative, and now back to the literal. Apologies; but I have said that I have ADD… 😊 If you have not gotten anything else that I have said in these 1200+ words, please catch this: after you have experienced the worst of what your dash life has dealt you, know that there is a sanguine (I really like that word!) life waiting for you through Christ. For you, Beloved, as cliché as it may sound, I do wish you joy after pain, sunshine after rain, and life after death.