As a child, I wanted to believe that if I was a Christian and served God, my life would be happy all the time. I thought that life was about making yourself as happy as possible and protecting yourself from as much pain as you could. I no longer believe that. Now I see God and life on earth as something to be cherished and appreciated, but not as something that will always be happy. Part of growing is learning to cherish even the sad parts of life. One line from Stranger in a Strange Land says that the Martians would spend several thousand years Grokking (knowing and understanding) Earth and Humans, and then, once they had properly Grokked and Cherished and hated Earth, they would destroy it. I don’t necessarily agree with the Martian attitude toward Cherishing, but I do think that it paints a powerful picture.
Juan is going through one of those painful times in life at this moment. We just received word from the police that his grandfather has passed away in San Jose. The death was not unexpected (should death ever be unexpected?), but nevertheless, it is painful to have someone die. The typle evangelical attitude toward death is that, in theory at least, we should be happy and rejoice at funerals, and those times should be used to preach the Gospel. I definitely agree with some of the theory behind this attitude. A funeral is a great way to preach the Gospel, and we should both rejoice in the life of our loved ones, and in the new life that a believer now has for eternity. I don’t, however, believe in trying to make family members of the deceased feel happy at funerals.
I tend to agree more with the Jewish approach toward death, which involves a short time of symbolic death (mourning, uncomforted and unbothered by the need to be a part of the living world), followed by an extended and gradual period of being comforted and gradually reentering the world of the living. When our loved ones die, we die with them, and I believe that it is important to recognize that.
Please pray for Juan and his family. Even though you will not read this till long after the death of his Grandfather, I do not believe that G-d is any more bound by the time of our prayers than he is by the walls of our church.