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In January, 1987, my husband and I became members of a very exclusive
club. We had been only vaguely aware of its existence, and we thought
that surely a chapter in a city the size of ours wouldn't have many
We had seen a few people who belonged to the club, but we didn't seem
to have anything in common with them, so we didn't really get to know
them. Occasionally, we read stories in the newspaper about new
members being initiated into the club, but it didn't seem likely that
we would ever be eligible to join, so we paid no attention.
The price of membership is so dear that we couldn't imagine being a
part of the club. We must have realized in the backs of our minds
that people didn't choose to join and pay the dues--it was done for
them somehow. In fact, no one really has any idea of how members are
selected. There are a lot of theories; but much of the time, the
theories come from non-members who don't understand much about the
The "club" we are now in (although it is not an organized group), is
known as "bereaved parents." The cost of our membership was the life
of our son; and we, like all other members, have no idea why we were
selected for membership.
No one wants to be in this club. Even now, months afterward, inside
our hearts and minds we continue to fight membership, but there is no
resigning from it. It is an automatic lifetime membership. There was
no way to avoid it--we did the best we could to keep our son safe.
For fourteen years, we guided him through dangers, only to have him
die in a seemingly minor auto accident. Though we lay awake night
after night, and think of it day after day, there is no answer as to
why we have been thrust into this select group. We hate it and we cry
out in protest, but there is no way to change it.
We have learned a lot since our membership began. We now understand
much about the other members. In fact, we seek to be with them, to
have regular get-togethers, to discuss our membership, and try to
understand its value.
Sometimes, those outside the club are afraid of us, fearing that if
they come near us or talk with us, they will be selected to become
members too! Acquaintances often try to ignore the membership,
pretending that it doesn't exist. They seem to think that will make
things easier, and then the members won't feel "different," but it
really only makes things much worse.
So many times, I have wanted someone to say hello or to tell me she
has been thinking of me or to mention something about the absent
child who still lives inside me and overshadows all my thoughts. I
have heard people say, "I don't want to upset her, or remind her of
her son, or say something that will make her cry."
I want to tell them: "The only way you can make me feel worse than I
already do is to pretend that it doesn't exist or that it isn't as
deep and painful as you surely know it is.
Have you ever experienced the feeling of having one terrible incident
go through your mind, day after day, week after week, month after
month, wondering why it happened and how you could have prevented it?
Well, don't worry about reminding me of my son. I am thinking about
him nearly twenty-four hours a day.
"Sure, sometimes my mind is temporarily distracted--it would have to
be to function at all. But if you think there is even one day that
goes by without my child's death tearing up my heart, then you have
no idea what this club is all about.
"I appreciate your talking about my child, or at least letting me
talk about him. He was a very large part of my life, and ignoring him
now will really hurt me. It makes me think that you feel he's no
longer important because he's gone. It hurts to think that people
don't want to think about him or remember good things about him, just
because he has died.
"I understand that you don't want to say anything that will make me
cry. That sounds kind, and I used to feel that way too, but now I
know better. I'd rather the tears didn't come when you talk to me
because I know they may scare you away, or at least make you very
uncomfortable. But I've learned how useful and necessary they are. If
I go too long without tears, my body builds up a terrible pressure
from the pain of the grief. If you will allow me to cry in your
presence, perhaps I won't have to cry alone, wondering if anyone else
remembers, or even cares, about my loss.
"You can't know what will make me cry--sometimes I don't know,
myself. Some days I stay dry-eyed through nearly everything. Other
days, the slightest thing will start the tears--things you could not
possibly imagine or anticipate. Not all the tears are tears of
sorrow. Even in the midst of my anguish, I sometimes cry tears of joy
and relief because you have reached out; because you have confirmed
that my son was special; perhaps because you have shared with me some
precious memory about him which I had not known before.
"Please don't run away from me. Don't pretend his death never
occurred, or even worse, that he never lived! I still love him, think
of him, need to remember. Please share with me and we will both feel
"I am learning that God is not punishing me. He did not cause the
death of my son. But, He can help me to grow through this experience--
to become stronger and wiser and more caring, if I have some help.
Initially, when I was told by a church member that I would change and
grow stronger through this experience, I wanted to scream that if it
meant giving up my son, I didn't want to change or get stronger. But
I know I have no choice about that now--he is gone. Now my choices
are to either let God, and friends, help me to become better; or I
can choose to allow this grief to destroy me."
I have to experience the grief. I can't pretend it doesn't hurt, or
hurry it along. That's what membership in this club is teaching me. I
am choosing to allow God to take an unspeakable experience and use it
to start life again...in a new and better way.
Sermon text with italics and bold and John 3:16 and v. 20.
Text with an outline.
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