I miss my son today. That goes without saying, I suppose, since I miss him every day. But on this day the pain is particularly sharp, the ache especially deep. I miss my friend, I miss my brother, I miss my protégé. I miss the son of my youth, the delight of my heart. I miss seeing him and hugging him, I miss teaching him and learning from him, I miss the sound of his voice and the cackle of his laugh. I miss having a son at all. I just plain miss my Nick.
The time between now and when he went to heaven has passed so quickly, yet so slowly. It often feels like it was just yesterday that we received the phone call, just yesterday that we endured the funeral, just yesterday that we watched the casket be lowered into the cold, dark ground. But at the same time it feels like it was a lifetime ago. We were different people back then, a different family with different desires, different assumptions, a different understanding of life and death and the God who is sovereign over it all.
And just as the time between now and when Nick went to heaven has passed both quickly and slowly, I expect that the time between now and when I go to heaven will pass both quickly and slowly. This life is a dash, a blip, a vapor, yet just as truly a slog, a marathon, a long and wearying pilgrimage. I have often observed that while the brevity of life is best seen in retrospect, it’s the slowness of life that tends to be felt in the moment. It may be brief as we look back on it, but it’s long as we live it.
And it feels long today. It looks long today. It looks long as I gaze into the future and see a road laid out before me that may well lead through months, years, decades. It looks longer still as I consider the heavy burden of grief God has called me to bear. I am confident I can carry a great weight for a short distance, but far less confident that I can carry it for many miles or many years. I just don’t know how I will bear up under this sorrow if I have to carry it all the way to the end.
My father, a landscaper, used to take me to work with him from time to time. I remember one day when he brought me with him to be an unskilled but cost-effective source of manual labor. He showed me a skid of brick that had been delivered to the end of a client’s driveway and then a walkway that he was building to the front door. My job was to get the brick from the first spot to the second. I remember gazing at that giant pile with despair. How could I, at all of 12 or 14 years of age, possibly move what was quite literally a ton of bricks? I realized I would have to do it in the only way I could. And so piece by piece, brick by brick, step by step, I carried each one of those bricks to my father. He laid them as quickly as I could bring them, until a perfect path led to the entrance of that beautiful home.
And just so, while God has called me to bear my grief for a lifetime, and to do so faithfully, he has not called me to bear the entire weight of it all at once. As that pile was made up of many bricks, a lifetime is made up of many days. The burden of a whole lifetime’s grief would be far too heavy to bear and the challenge of a whole lifetime’s faithfulness far too daunting to consider. But the God who knows my frailty has broken that assignment into little parts, little days, and has promised grace sufficient for each one of them. My challenge for today is not to bear the grief of a lifetime or to be faithful to the end, but only to carry today’s grief and only to be faithful on this one little day that he has spread out before me.
And I am confident that, by his grace, I can carry out today’s assignment. I am confident that I can bear the burden of this day’s sorrow until night falls and my eyes close in rest. I am confident that I can be faithful in today’s calling for as long as the day lasts. I don’t need to think about tomorrow or next week or next year. I don’t need the strength to carry the burdens of any other day and don’t need the resolve to remain faithful through any other circumstance. My God-given task began this morning and extends only until tonight. Then, when I awaken with the dawning of a new day, I will awaken to new blessings, new strength, and new grace that will allow me to be strong and faithful through that day as well.
And in just that way, brick by brick, step by step, day by day, he will lead me, he will keep me, he will enable me to be strong and faithful in all that he calls me to. And as I serve my Father in the assignment he has given me, I know that each brick, each step, and each day is bringing me a little bit closer to the entrance of a great mansion that belongs to him, and to me.