I am thinking this will probably be one of my last posts for a while. But I wanted to share what Pastor Sun Kim had shared with us at the funeral last Saturday. He was also the one who had married Elaine and I. This message really articulates the hope that we all have in Elaine's death. Please pay close attention to the imperatives that Pastor Sun talked about-this is our application.
"I have to be honest with everyone, even though I was very happy and honored to have received this request to speak today, this probably has been one of the most difficult message to prepare in my entire pastoral life. I wasn’t quite ready to prepare a burial message whom I had wed only few years ago. As much as I want to bless everyone who have gathered here today, I feel that its is very important for us to be honest and speak sincerely to the circumstance which brings us here today. Without this honest and deep introspection, I don’t think we can properly grow and heal. As I’ve pondered over the content of the message, asking God to give me the right words to speak, asking God to give me the wisdom to balance between grief and hope, honesty and compassion, present circumstance and faith…I decided to ask a simple question. What would Elaine say to us today?
I know that Elaine is now in heaven, resting in the presence of God free from the burdens of sin, brokenness, fear and pain. And I also firmly believe that she is finally made complete in the image of God lacking nothing. So if she can speak to us today from heaven, what would she say? I know this may be a bit unorthodox way of preaching God’s word, and it may even feel a bit uncomfortable for some, but please indulge me and I pray that this message will give hope and strength to all of you.
I think if Elaine were looking down upon us and was able to speak to us, knowing the kind of person Elaine was, I believe the first thing she will say is, “I’m sorry.” I believe she’ll say…
“I’m sorry for leaving all of you so early…”
“I’m sorry for leaving you with so many unanswered questions…”
“I’m sorry for making any of you feel like you hadn’t done enough for me. That’s not true.”
“I’m especially sorry to my husband Paul, for not being able to keep my vow to stay by your side till the end. Not being able to share with you the promise of God as husband and wife till the end.”
“I’m sorry to Mom and dad, because I know there is no greater pain than for parents to have to bury their own child.”
But most importantly, I know she had an opportunity to speak to God face to face and say “God I’m sorry, I’m sorry for giving up on your gift to me, giving up on the treasure of life you’ve entrusted to me”. To which I know God said, “I have already forgiven you, when my Son died for you on the cross, bearing all your pain, all your sorrows, all of your unspoken prayers. I have seen all the tears you shed in secret and I wept next to you. They are wiped clean, purified as driven snow. Now enter into your eternal rest, in my arms, find your eternal peace.” For this very reason, we too must choose to find peace. To let go. To forgive. And to also forgive ourselves.
Secondly, I believe Elaine will say, with a huge grin on her face, “It’s all good! I haven’t frowned once since I got to heaven. I haven’t shed a single tear…ok maybe from laughing all the time. I no longer feel darkness anywhere at all. I haven’t seen a shadow yet, I’m enveloped by God’s perfect light all the time. I can finally see myself as God sees me…. and I am beautiful. I can’t find a single mirror here that shows any imperfection. I no longer need any make-up. I’m overwhelmed with only certainties, as all the doubts are left behind. Every step I take here is with absolute assurance and with profound love of my heavenly Father. What I use to see and perceive only dimly, now I understand perfectly without any distraction. I am finally at peace, and I hope you’ll find God’s peace knowing where now I reside.”
Lastly, I think she will ask all of us a favor. I think she would ask that her life and death will have meaning as we ponder Apostle Paul’s words, “and all these things shall work together for those who love God and called according to his purpose”. As I was thinking about this last point, an image came to my mind. My daughter attends a Mosaic class at her school every Monday. It’s an art class taught by a wonderful local artist. They create this beautiful Mosaic by using hundreds of broken, jagged, and shared glasses. It is an amazing and most beautiful thing to see these pieces come together to create an image that an artist had in her mind. When being put together, it’s bit chaotic and hard to imagine the final outcome. But as these children, in full trust of their teacher and in obedience to her instruction, begin to lay pieces together, side by side, they begin to see this beautiful image begin to emerge and come alive right in front of their eyes.
I think we are all broken, jagged, shared pieces of glass without meaning when left to ourselves. We must realize that we are all broken, but beautifully broken. Our broken, jagged, and insignificant piece has a deeper meaning in the beautiful imagination of our God, our heavenly Father. It is when we begin to realize that when my brokenness connects with your brokenness, and yours connect with others, that we can begin to find meaning, restoration, and, healing in the midst.
Some of us might be saying, this is too much to process. Too much to make sense out of. I can’t neatly package it into my theology or my culture or my worldview… so we may end up just internalizing Elaine’s death. Some of us will cover it up or bury it deep inside. Some of us will just try to just move on as quickly as possible.
I believe what we must do is honestly acknowledge Elaine’s brokenness. But the question is, how will we then come along, come along side of her brokenness and connect it with ours, and in turn seek God to accomplish even greater things than we can possibly imagine and hope for?
I think Elaine is asking us to be open. Open to those who are broken, those who are struggling in their secret rooms consumed by darkness. Open to young people who are experts at plastering the most perfect image on their social media, yet struggling with their sense of worth that can only be retrieved in God. Elaine might be asking you to take more proactive role. Some of us might be encouraged to create programs or start an organization that can help prevent any further loss of lives. Some of us may reconsider your career choices that may further help people deal with serious physical and mental issues such as depression. May be some of us are called to change the conversation within the Asian culture to remove the stigma of mental disorder; create true safe spaces, especially within the church, to discuss difficult subjects such as suicide and depression. Some of us will need to fight for the biblical understanding of the institution of family as the last defense in protecting the mind and hearts of our young people. Some of us need to seriously engaged the culture of Nihilism, a culture that continues to promote meaninglessness all the while aimlessly searching for happiness within.
I’m hopeful for tomorrow, because I know we will meet with Elaine face to face in God’s kingdom. But I’m also hopeful, because I have confidence that so many of us will rise up and meet the challenges Elaine’s life and death has presented for us. Elaine’s life was dedicated to helping the broken and hurting. We all know this to be true because we know her heart and we have witnessed her faith in action. Now her death is demanding us to have a vision that cares for those who are quietly falling into the cracks, those who are being ruthlessly swallowed up by the visions of darkness. I have hope, not in our own ability to be good, but because God who has begun a good work in Elaine’s life will be faithful to accomplish it through all of us, all of us who are so beautifully broken before God."
-Pastor Sun Kim 3/11/17