I went and sat at my dad's grave the other day after work. I really had no intention of ending up there. I was exhausted after standing all day and wanted nothing more than to get home to see my babies and hubs. But there I went, driving towards the funeral home, passing it and heading in to the cemetery. It used to be I could enter from the other side right after he passed. I was 16 then. I spent a lot of time there that year. I would drive up there late at night even. Sometimes I'd go with my mom, but mostly I went alone. My sister and I processed his death very differently and she didn't go for years to visit. She still rarely goes. And really, is there a need to? We know he's not lying in that coffin. We know his soul resides with Jesus. I know he hears me talking to him whether I'm standing in my kitchen or by his grave. So why do we visit graves anyway? What's the purpose in visiting a body that is 6 feet in the ground with no life left in them? I know good and well my dad would tell me to stop coming there. He would tell me there's no need, that I can look up and talk to him anytime I wanted. My grandmother would say the same. Well, maybe she'd want to make sure her flower arrangements were looking good. And my mother keeps them looking beautiful.
But what drove me there yesterday was desperation. Desperation to make sense of this life. Desperation to figure something out that I haven't quite yet. Desperation for answers. For something. I will tell you this...if you need some calm, if you need some reflection, some evaluation, go sit in a cemetery. Walk around and read the stones. Reflect on the lives that are no longer present around you and tell me if that doesn't reel your emotions in a bit. Or maybe it would send them over the edge. For me, it was sobering. It's always something that is good for me. To be reminded that this life is in fact temporary. That one day I will breathe my last breath and my family and friends will be left to mourn without me. As my sister and I were left to mourn my dad's death at the ages of 16 and 14. My dad died when he was 42. I'll be 32 in a few short months. 42 is not far away for me.
It was all I could do to get out of my van quick enough. I left the windows cracked and walked towards the tombstone. I sat on the ground right in front of his name. "Danny Ray Casey, Born June 22, 1958 - Died April 17, 2001". I stared for a long time at the stone. I stared off into the sky. I listened to the bugs chirping around. I talked to him, asked him if he ever dealt with some of the things we are. I asked how he handled it if so and just thought of what he might say if he were here today. I reflected on the day of his funeral. I was in my darkest place of grief that day. I didn't even know how to process a loss so great at such a young age. I relied heavily on my friends to pull me through. I remember collapsing in their arms when they were lowering him into the ground.
I sat and cried and talked a little more. I told him how much he would love my babies and how proud he'd be of Victoria. I longed for his freedom. His freedom from his sickness, his freedom from this world. His freedom from this life. We can't imagine that type of freedom just yet. We're not made to experience that until we meet Jesus face to face but man do I ever long for heaven some days. For those streets of gold and being reunited with all of our lost loved ones. Where there's no ugliness, darkness, gossip, lies, temptations, and sin. Where all is right and nothing is wrong. Where hesitations and fears are no more and saints are free to love and worship forever. What a day that will be!
Until then, I want to know that I am living as freely as possible in the time I have left on earth. That I am showering others with grace and love, even in the darkness. That my daughters see that I am not perfect, but I'm clinging to my Jesus who is. That I'm giving myself freedom to fail, learn, and grow in the process. That I'm freeing myself up from expectations of others and expectations I put on myself. That I'm refusing to put back on the chains of bondage of anger, frustration, and bitterness that ruled me for too long. Sometimes we live as if this life goes on forever, that we get chance after chance, that we will never perish. While I know where my soul will reside after this life is over, I want to know that the life I'm living today isn't full of things I'll regret. And I can't do this in my own strength. Selfishly, I want to throw my arms up in the air and give up. Give up on people. Give up on humanity. Give up on there being any good in this world. I want to point my finger in their face and tell them that's not how you do it, not what you say, not how you treat people, not how your life should go.....and the list goes on. We are a culture of fixers aren't we? We try to take someone else's life and circumstances and give them a prescription. A prescription for everything they're not doing right. We could do it better. We would never do what they're doing. We would never struggle with that sin, temptation, addiction, etc. You must not be doing what the Lord wants you to do. You must be reaping what you've sown in your wild days. You must be getting what you deserve.
But what if that's not it at all? This is so contrary to what we are called to live like as Christ followers. What we deserve is certainly not what we've been given. And how do we live out that gratitude to our Jesus? By withholding that same grace and forgiveness towards others? By hiding behind our computer screens and phones and posting scriptures, laced with guilt trips. By turning encouragement into something that has to be earned. By only loving those who love you and give you something in return. By turning God's Word into a buffet...my pastor said it best, Christianity is not a la carte. There's no choosing here. Love is a command. What restrictions and stipulations are you putting on your love? What would it look like if those restrictions were lifted? If you love without hesitation, reservations, or qualifications? If you loved your family member addicted to drugs, served your friend in their darkest hour, gave to the homeless man on the corner who has nothing to give in return.
Wouldn't that love be freeing? Wouldn't that kind of shocking love change your life? That's the life I'm longing for. Where my hands are open and my heart is ready to serve. God help remind us that this life isn't forever, but the way we love others can be eternally impacting.