Why do I dislike funerals so much? I was reminded again today how difficult it is when I attend a funeral. I realize it should be a celebration of a life past into a "new" life beyond...that part I totally get. I guess what really bothers me are the people who are still living. It's that awkward moment when you walk up to the family of the deceased, not really knowing what to say, hoping you don't say something really dumb or incredibly hurtful, and you just sort of stand there in that uncomfortable moment of silence that seems like an eternity but really only last for just a few seconds. Then a few nice words of comfort and off you go.
Has anyone ever written down the "protocol" for conversation? I realize that just "being there" for support, or offering help if needed is the best thing the family can hear in those moments, and I'm sure it means a lot. I guess the real reason I feel uncomfortable is because I've never really had to walk in those shoes before. I've never been the one standing at the coffin ushering people past with idle chatter. I've been very fortunate in that regard.
But today got me thinking...life is short. REAL short. It won't be long before my mother will be the one I am standing over, and then quite possibly my own family or even myself. Does anyone else ever think about what their funeral will be like?
Morbid curiosity? Perhaps. Contemplation on life? More likely.
I like how Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill once described life (I'll paraphrase a bit). He talked about the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden as a starting point, and the Tree of Life John describes in Revelation as the ending "paradise." Rob's point is this - we all have a beginning and an ending, but what will we do between the trees? I love that analogy. Today's funeral reminded me of that journey between the trees. How far am I on that journey? How much longer do I have to go? What have I really done in that time frame? What do I have left to do and accomplish?
I'm not sure if I'll ever feel anything less than uncomfortable at funerals. I do know that I feel pretty uncomfortable about my journey between the trees right now. I also think it's important for us to stop along our journey and evaluate the path which we have taken and choose very prayerfully the path we will continue into the future. Being uncomfortable is not inherently a bad thing if it leads to resolution. Or will we end up reflecting, as Robert Frost has done, upon the "Road Not Taken?"
For me, I am so thankful of the path God has chosen for me, but I am also at a point in my life where I don't want to screw it up. Once you know the truth, you cannot deny its' existence. How will I find my path between the trees? The only reasonable response is to simply choose. Find a path and move along that path with all abandon. If it's not the right path, God will find a new one for you. I guess that's why they call it faith.
So my prayer is that we will all run down the path, embracing every step and every turn. Not looking back except to admire God's design and not worrying about what's around the bend, but simply dreaming and imagining the beauty of what God has planned next. May we all discover the joy of the journey "between the trees."