Slow tears trickled down my face. I watched the pallbearers carry Mama ever so gently up the steps into the white clapboard church she called home.
The hot July day would have been unbearable, if I had noticed it. I did not. I was in a fog, depending on the grace of God to get me through the next few hours.
I could hardly put one foot in front of the other….felt like I was walking through a river of mud. Struggling. But there were things to do. People and family to greet. Slowly they arrived, their murmured condolences not even beginning to comfort my grieving heart.
Her service was beautiful! Exactly what she would have wanted. Mama’s pastor told us of her love for Jesus, and laid out the plan of salvation. Her church family fed us after the funeral, hugged us and loved on us. They told us how much she would be missed. Oh, how well I knew!
One bittersweet scene replays in my mind. On a white board in the church choir room, these words:
July 28, 2011
Oh happy day!
Oh…happy…day. I was trying, but my heart was broken. It’s a hard thing to lose a mama. She was the glue that held our family together. What now?
Days turned into weeks, and my life went back to normal. But was it, really?
Nothing had stopped. Life kept going. Things had to be done, at work and home. People were still coming and going. It was almost as if Mama’s death was a non-event. Didn’t people know? Couldn’t they see? Things were different. It was strange.
My heart was in Mississippi. My family was there. It felt like home. For the first time in thirty years, I felt like a stranger in Louisiana.
I didn’t belong here…or there. I was homesick. For Mama. For the family time we had shared. For home – wherever that may be. Nothing felt the same – like someone had re-arranged the furniture. Familiar, but not quite right.
Stranger. Sojourner. Exile.
Genesis 23:2-4 Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sara and to weep for her. Then Abraham rose from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, “I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me a burial site among you that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”
Abraham and Sarah had been living in Canaan for many years before Sarah died. Yet Abraham felt like a stranger.
The original Hebrew use of the word “stranger” indicates an alien – someone living in a strange land among strange people. These strangers did not identify with the group among whom they were living. Yep, that was me.
Why didn’t Abraham return to his homeland, if he felt like a stranger in Canaan?
We’re told in Genesis 12:1-2 ‘Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you: and I will make you a great nation…”’
God sent Abraham to Canaan. Abraham was seventy-five when he obediently left his homeland. He didn’t question God, or ask “Why?” He just went, based on God’s word and promise. The Lord put Abraham there for His purposes, and Abraham chose to stay, and grow, and make a life where God had placed him.
When the Lord moves you into a strange land, it could be your place of promise.
If this was Abraham’s land of promise, why did he feel like a stranger, after so many years there?
Abraham knew – deep in his heart – what I was beginning to fully understand after Mama’s death: This earth is not my home. I am a stranger here, a temporary resident.
Hebrews 11:10 “for he (Abraham) was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
My heart ached for this city created by God. My whole being longed for it. I’d never felt this more acutely than after Mama’s death. This longing that wouldn’t go away, that stayed months after my grief had subsided, was a longing for my real home, my heavenly home.
Abraham stayed in Canaan, even though he was a stranger, even though he grieved his wife Sarah. He was able to endure grieving in a strange land, because he kept his eyes on the city that God was building for him. Abraham’s hope was in the Lord God.
Have you ever suffered a loss and suddenly felt like a stranger – out of place and homesick? Let this promise from God’s word comfort you:
“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3 (NASB)
Jesus Himself is preparing a place for us! In the meantime, we must live as strangers here on earth.
2 Corinthians 5:1-2 “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven”
Until next week…