CCM: In the sense of, here’s this great tragedy and yet you have experienced beauty and grace?
DM: Losing a brother has opened a door for some effective ministry, dealing with people who have lost someone in a tragic way. I was on staff at a church in Wichita and our receptionist’s brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. I didn’t get to see her before she left to go home for the funeral. On the day she came back, I walked in, thinking, I’m a pastor here. I’m supposed to have answers for this. I’m supposed to have some theology that makes this OK. Everything in me is going, Say something meaningful, and all that I could get out was, “That sucks.” What an awful pastor, right? On every level. But she said, “Thanks for not using, ‘We know that God works through all things to bring good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose’ as an anesthesia.”
When Rich was killed, I went on the funeral tour for a number of memorials. The following year I was out on tour with The Ragamuffins, so I was always seeing people. There’s something in us that has to make everything OK, so I had people tell me the reason for the accident was God wanted him in his heavenly choir. I was like, “I appreciate the sentiment, but here’s my problem—God is everywhere. Rich was already in the choir. The thing is now I can’t hear him. And that may be selfish, but that’s where I am.” God didn’t whitewash any of the hurt out of the scriptures. When we shortcut and say, “Don’t hurt. You shouldn’t hurt. Here let me just take away the pain,” we cut out the goodness God develops in us.
CCM: Grief is a connector, right?
DM: Absolutely. If it weren’t for the pain and what comes with the Fall, I think most of us wouldn’t even want God. I hope as I mature I need less of [the pain], but I also believe that the more mature I’ve become, the less I avoid it. I actually embrace grief more now. I’ve learned to say, “Man, that really hurts. Why does that really hurt? And where does real healing come from?”
CCM: We have witnessed people swallowed up by grief. How do you embrace grief without letting it take over? Where’s that line?
DM: … by not taking God out of the equation. It’s easy to fall off on either side—avoiding grief because God’s good and so it’s all got to be good, or life is really hard and it’s bitter and it’s painful. For me, [grief and God] seem like they cannot go together, so I go to God and let Him show me [how they interact]. Through Rich’s death, I would probably have been overwhelmed if I had just focused on grief. But if I embraced grief focused on God, there’s a way through.
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