In our current slang, when people say “You slay,” they mean it as a compliment. That’s not the way I used it on December 24th when I announced on social media that my son Joey was hit by a car and killed. I included Job’s words: “Though he slay me, yet I will trust him.”—Job 3:15
Way different slay.
Even though I was both obliterated and in shock when I wrote it, I meant it. Wobbly as it was, it was an auto-pilot statement of faith. I wanted to trust God even though it made no sense that Joey died.
Three + months (106 days) later, it still makes no sense.
When I spoke at Joey’s service, referencing the hymn “It is Well With My Soul,” I said that it was not well with my soul. Just to be clear.
Three + months (106 days) later, it is still not well with my soul.
It seems less and less well as each day passes without him.
I’m still slayed. I’m flayed, frayed, filleted.
I feel betrayed.
I’ve been praying for Joey since before he was born.
I have a sign in my bathroom that reads, “Not to spoil the ending, but everything is going to be OK.” From my bathtub vantage point, I look up from my bubbles and stare at that sign. Sometimes I glare. Some days I heckle it. I say things like “Oh yeah?!”
“This is not OK, stupid sign!”
To be “fair,” I guess it depends on how you define “OK.”
And so I keep going back to the eleventh chapter of Hebrews because it makes sense and doesn’t make sense. It’s disturbing and comforting. I listen and relisten to this powerful recitation by a young man named Micah. It begins at the 7:40 mark.
The idea that people did not receive what was promised to them stuns me; it baffles me. Isn’t God good “all the time”? Isn’t He trustworthy? Does He dangle a promise and then pull it back once we reach for it? Is He like Lucy with the football, toying with Charlie Brown?
“13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”–Hebrews 11:13-16
Even though I’m disappointed (put mildly) and confused by God, I still believe He exists. I have too many reasons to believe God is real. And that He is good. Still, I don’t know why He didn’t protect Joey when he crossed that street.
This is a big problem for me. That said, there’s something I do know. Something I can’t unknow.
Sometime last year (before Joey died), I had another one of those indescribable, otherworldly experiences like the ones I referenced in a book I wrote. This was the fifth time–and at the time of that writing, I’d had three before:
“In my life, I’ve had three dreams where I’ve experienced a force and a power and a spirit I cannot describe. What I know for sure is that they were heavenly, and I mean that in the most real sense of the word. There simply are no adjectives for the beauty of the experiences, but I can tell you that they were peeks and tastes and touches of heaven. Each time one happened, I awoke with a mind-blowing, momentary clarity . . . but also a sadness because I could not stay there. My sadness dissipated, though, as I relished the knowledge that these moments were promises of more to come, and that one day, I won’t have to leave them at all.
“I thought these dreams were so magnificent, so life-changing, so unforgettable that they would sustain me in living as a new person. I’ve tried to write them down, just in case. But like I said, there are no words, so my writing stinks. Over time, they fade. They always have. They slip away a little more each day.
“Still, I know they happened.
“The details of some things too beautiful often fade. (Are they too lovely for this planet?) I have the silhouette, however—the faint memory. God also lets me have other things as reminders, placeholders of images too magnificent for this place.” –from I Punched Myself in the Eye
I cannot explain the euphoria I’ve experienced in my dreams. It doesn’t make sense other than it is a Costco sample of the next life. It’s undeniable. It’s something to hold me over.
God knows I need a hold-over right now.
This is the photo I spontaneously used on December 24th when I posted the news about Joey’s death.
The photo was taken years ago at a family Thanksgiving gathering when we were playing the game, “Heads Up!” After I posted it, I noticed the words on his headband: “With or without you.” Unconsciously, I seemed to be committing that I would trust God with or without Joey. Though He slay me, I will trust Him.
As sad as I am these days, the only thing that brings me true comfort is reminding myself of those five Costco samples—those inexplicable, exquisite, taste-and-see moments that promise this alien and stranger a heavenly, “better country.” By faith, it’s the “OK” that my bathroom sign alludes to, and the reason I don’t chop up that wooden sign and use it as kindling in my fireplace.