Saturday, May 31, 2008


I attended a funeral today. Now I feel raw. I feel exposed. I feel violated, a little. Yet, I am incredibly moved. I feel changed. I am relieved.

The friend whose mother died and I have different cultural heritages. I'm white. She's black. I'm young, she's a little more mature than I am. Actually, I don't really know her very well. She's going to teach on my team next year and I felt that I really needed to go to support her. She's been dealing with her mother's illness for over a year. I saw her struggle under the weight of motherhood, teaching, and daughtering. She has tremendous strength and poise. I envy her and I want to be like her.

Now more than ever.

I've attended a few black funerals before, but none has ever moved me quite like today. While we were waiting for the processional, the other attendees approached the casket and whispered to each other or to the deceased. It was beautiful and scary. I, frozen chosen that I am, stayed firmly planted in my seat. Perhaps if I had known my friend's mother, I could have taken the same walk. Instead, I just stayed put.

When the family came in, they were lead by their minister. He began by reading Psalm 23 and continued through the Psalms as he lead the very large family to the casket. The family was openly grieving. They were crying out in sadness, crying out to our Lord, begging for mercy. One lady was being physically supported--her grief weighed her down that much. My friend and her siblings were clinging to one another, their spouses, their friends, their children. Their grief was difficult to watch. But it was a relief.

As the family walked past their mother, their sister, their aunt, their crying became wails. One sister couldn't leave her. The rest of the family hugged her and moved on. She needed more time with her sister. Her husband openly sobbed when he sat down. I've never heard such grief in my life. Yet, I was relieved.

The first words spoken after the processional were "It's okay to grieve. Cry out when you need to. Hug when you need to be held. Feel, brothers and sisters, feel." What a relief.

When the casket was closed, the wailing overwhelmed the sanctuary. That family was hurting.

During prayers, the congregation responded to the words of the minister. They participated in the prayer. It went beyond "Amen, brother" or "keep preaching" The prayer didn't cover them...they WERE the prayer. WHAT.A.RELIEF.

Their emotions were so raw. When the choir was singing, brothers and sisters joined hands and stood, praising our Savior. Even in the hour of their darkest grief, they praised our Lord. They were not afraid to be real--to cry out to God "Why, why?" "Hold me, Jesus!" They were not afraid to worship in the truest since of the word.

I can not begin to describe the emotions that coursed through me as I stood, sat, observed the service. Shocked...a little. Envious...very much. There were no pretenses. The family wasn't pretending that they were okay. I want to worship that way. I want to be REAL in my relationship with God, my family, my friends. I want to be raw. If it makes others uncomfortable, that's okay. If we were all like that, we would change the face of this world. I want to worship with tears of sorrow, tears of joy, tears of disbelief. Our God is SO big. He is SO mighty. He purposes every event to his own glory.

Shock to the heart. Yes, yes...I know God is sovereign. I believe that my God can do ALL things. However, during a funeral service, I was shocked to be touched to my very own core. God purposed my marriage, my daughter, my life, two miscarriages, my job, my friendships, TO GLORIFY HIM. To turn the glory back to the One that deserves it.

I feel like my very soul was opened up in that church. That others could see my pain, my longing, my desire, my sin. To see that turn the glory back to my God. That I question "Why me? What did I do?" It's not about ME! This life is not about Natalie. It's not about how well I teach. How well I mother. How well I keep the house. It's about living every single moment to honor God. I knew that...I knew it in my head. It's slowly sinking it's way into my heart.

What a relief. It hurts to be so exposed. To examine yourself this way. It hurts to be so raw. But it is such a huge relief.


Andi said...

This is one of the most beautiful and profound posts I have ever read of yours. Wow. Raw grief and praise knows no color, no culture, no religion. It just is. We should all have that freedom. I hope for that one day too- the release.

Rachel said...

WOW is all I can say. My eyes have tears in them. Oh that we could all be so raw in our grief and praise. Thank you for that reminder...that God is to be glorified in whatever season we are in. I've been thinking about you a lot and am continuing to pray.

Kyla said...

Wow. This post was great, Natalie. That is one of the most important things to me when choosing a church (says the girl who isn't currently IN church)...openness in worship. I think it makes the level of your relationship with Him to a much deeper place.

Also, what an awesome testament to that woman's life that she is touching people for Christ even after she is gone.

Arizaphale said...

I am speechless Natalie. You have expressed a lot of the things I think and feel about grief and worship. I have spent years 'bound up' by the fear of what others would think of me...but as you so rightly's not about 'me'.
This is a sensational post.

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Santiago Chiva
Granada (Spain)