Three weeks ago my father passed away unexpectedly at the age of 62. Writing (and reading) that sentence still doesn’t seem real.
I don’t know where I am in the whole stages of grief thing. It depends on the day, on the time of day, and sometimes on the minute of the day. I have every bit of confidence that my father’s life now with Christ is “far better” than his life was here on earth (Philippians 1:23), but that doesn’t stop me from wishing he had remained “in the flesh” a little bit longer (Philippians 1:24). Yes, I am rejoicing. But I am lamenting.
And I can’t just turn that lamenting off when I lead worship these days. In my planning and in my leading, I am finding myself grappling with how this experiencing is shaping me.
I want to sing what’s true
Sentimentality is paper thin. Gospel truth is rock solid. I’m more mindful now than ever before of how much it matters that we sing is true. If it’s not true, then it’s simply a waste of time. I need the word of Christ to dwell richly in me these days, and I need to be taught and admonished in all wisdom (Colossians 3:16) lest I begin to grieve as if I have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The good news of Jesus Christ is worth singing about, even in a time of mourning and loss.
I want to sing what my father is singing
My father knew and loved Jesus. He is with Jesus now, and he is joining in with the “great multitude… from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!‘” (Revelation 7:9-10)
My father is worshipping Jesus now in heaven, and yet I can join in with him (and the saints and angels) from here on earth. My father is with Jesus, and yet I felt close to him as I led worship on Sunday, knowing that he and I were doing the same thing but in different locations.
I don’t want my emotions manipulated when I sing
My emotions are raw right now. One moment I’m fine, and the next moment (hypothetically speaking, of course…) I’m in a puddle of tears at a Tex-Mex Restaurant with chips and salsa stuffed in my mouth while the waitress is bringing my food. When I’m choosing or leading music these days, I’m freshly aware of just how unhelpful it is to go after a particular emotional response. I want to go after proclaiming and rejoicing in the Living One who died, who is alive forevermore, and who has the keys of Death and Hades in his hands (Revelation 1:18) and let the emotional response (if any) flow from that.
I need the hope of the resurrection, or else all of this singing is in vain
Paul says bluntly: “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-14)
Thank God that my hope, and your hope, is grounded in a Risen Savior, who has raised us up with him (Ephesians 2:6). I can sing (and invite others to sing with me) from a place of lament, because the cause of my lament (i.e. death) has been defeated by Jesus Himself.