MAT- BST, 2014
By the time I walked into my first lecture at Fuller in January 2012, the funerals had begun. I did not know it then, but I was exactly in the middle of an eight-month period during which thirteen people close to me would be laid to rest.
Many of these dear people attended my church of fewer than 100 families, and so the sense of loss was corporate and magnified as we struggled to remain hopeful in the face of tragedy. Three babies born still. A college student who rejected a heart transplant. A blood clot in my uncle's vein.
At first, my classes at Fuller were an escape from the sadness I always felt at church and at home. Discussing the fine details of a passage with other people who were hungry for the truth took my mind off of my circumstances and gave me temporary rest, like clutching the ledge of a swimming pool after treading water.
But as the losses kept mounting, I could not escape the sadness, the anger, and the colorless grief that hung over me even during lectures. That was when seminary became not just an escape, but a vehicle for restoration.
My first class at Fuller was Romans-Revelation with Dr. Kirk. Somehow I found myself writing an exegetical paper on 1 Corinthians 15, in which Paul talks about the human body after resurrection. In studying this passage and listening to Dr. Kirk's discussion of it, I came to realize that our best hope is not merely heaven, but a day in which whatever it was that happened to Christ's body on Easter morning would happen to us-to the friends I mourned.
Understanding that, because even our bodies will be redeemed, the heart of my friend who rejected his transplant will someday beat perfectly for eternity meant more to me than I can adequately convey.
That spring, as I studied Psalms with Dr. Smoak, I discovered the art of lament. Until then I believed, though I did not know it, that to be sad and angry in the presence of God was displeasing to him.
I always reframed my prayers so that God wouldn't think I was mad at him, or confused by the world around me. I'm sure I was not fooling him, but learning about lament as an accepted practice gave me the courage to stop fooling myself. I was angry, and I was definitely confused. I was restored to emotional health as I learned to simply sit in the throne room with my sadness, and not try to change it, but to let God see it and respond to it with his own presence and kindness.
The funerals have mostly stopped for now. I am grateful for this time of reprieve and quiet waters. But I will never forget how the professors, my fellow students, and most of all a passionate study of God's Word during my first year at Fuller pulled me through the longest period of loss I have experienced.