But even with all my first-hand accounts of watching people go through a grieving process, I was still surprised. Surprised by what? Surprised by death’s clarifying simplicity. Surprised that something like death could bring me a new perspective on the pressures in my life.
Maybe it’s the stage of life I find myself but my days are filled with a compilation of complex pressures. Some might say there is pressure from being a driven person, which I probably couldn’t argue too much with.
I feel pressure to lead the church I serve well and the pressure as a leader to our staff. I want ALIVE to be successful, to be influential. I want to position the church to accomplish the vision God has given to us. I want to provide messages that inspire and call people to holiness and mission. I want to provide insightful solutions to problems staff bring to my desk, and I feel the weight of teaching them to manage problems and the thrill of seeing confidence replace insecurities.
I feel pressure as I seek to lead our District. My learning curve is steep, the whole building a plane while flying it. I want our pastors and church staff to have more notches in the win column than losses. I want our churches to thrive and see that steady stream of freshly redeemed lives pouring into their doors!
But I sense the pressure is deeper than just being driven. I sense pressure in areas where I don’t feel driven to be the best or to be competitive.
I feel pressure to treat my wife Lisa well. I want to cherish her. I want to build a marriage with her that will thrive. I want to grow old with her, but do it in a good way; not just survive. I feel pressure when it comes to my kids. I want to provide and desire to protect. I want to give them opportunities I didn’t have, a start at life that is better than the start I had.
In an effort at full confession, sometimes I feel pressure in my relationship with God. Most of this conversation is too intimate for me to share here, but the pressure to do and the pressure to be seem to be constant companions.
And this gets me to my grief surprise. My mom passed away in July. I have her picture on the dash of my car and still fight the prompt to call her on Monday to talk about how Sunday went.
Lisa and I were hiking and talking about our children and some of what we hope and dream for them. And then it hit me. It has never been so clear as that moment on the trail for me. For mom, I am her son, and that’s all that mattered.
Mom was proud of many things in my life, but at the core, I was and always will be her son, that’s it. Not her son with degrees. Not her son with position. Not her son with accomplishments. Not her son with attendance records. Not her son with income. Not her some with failures and successes. Just her son, the second of five children.
For some reason, this provides a peace-giving clarity to me. I am her son and that’s enough. Sure, she was proud. Sure she prayed when I was carrying a heavy load at the church. Sure, she had the pictures of her grandchildren to pull out and brag about. But when you boil it all away and what is left is the barren landscape of grieving, I am her son. That’s all I would ever be to her, because that is all she ever wanted me to be. Her son. And nothing could take that away from her or away from me.