When I became a young man I desired to be dad. Something in me wanted to impart life-giving truths to the next generation. I wanted someone on my shoulders seeing farther than I did. I however, never anticipated the moment I would find myself upon a hill in our family forest, digging a grave. I dug and chopped through frost and root-laden soil to bury our long-time family friend, our golden retriever, Montana.
I have presided over the funerals of those who have experienced far greater loss than this, yet I never had to dig their grave. Digging a grave is a slow and tedious process. It painfully allows one to think and remember and grieve and work at the same time. One shovel-full at a time.
Montana helped raise my children. She protected them while allowing them to ride her, poke her, and sometimes drag her through life. She partnered with them while they practiced leadership, compassion, and perseverance. Even though she was the dog, it seemed as though she mothered them more and more as they grew older. She celebrated every birthday with her barking song and watched over our property like a vigilant sentry.
As our family saw the day of her departure growing close, each of us had a chance to say our goodbyes. But I had to dig the hole. I guess that’s what dads do. As I did, the sun shone brightly pushing away the cold of winter and creating stark shadows in our forest. All of this came together to highlight the goodness I have experienced in my life. For the shadows prove the light. The graves prove the soil.
Our family grieved together because we are together. Our family feels the loss, because we experienced the gain of knowing our friend. There is a void because at one time, something good filled it.
The shadows prove the light.
Many look at the sorrows of life and conclude God must not exist. Yet the exact opposite is true. Our pain points to a loss, but we cannot lose something that doesn’t exist. Pain and suffering are a corruption of the good. Without the good, there is no bad. Without the relationship with Tana we experienced as a family, we wouldn’t feel this hurt. Every loss points to something that shouldn’t be; it points to a world that we long to be different. If a good world didn’t exist, we would never long for it.
Every shadow and every grave points us to the loves, beauties, and liberties we have tasted but not fully consummated. Yet the light and the soil point to the truth that one day life will come full circle. Redemption will win. Death will no longer sting; graves will no longer need to be dug.
The famous passage tells us that God so loved the world that He sent His Son to hang on a Roman beam. As He perished, the light of the world grew dim and the sun bowed low in grief and for a moment, there were no shadows.
For the Light had come into the world and He allowed our sin to extinguish it.
But that was not the end of the story! That Light walked out of the grave so that shadows and graves could be redeemed! Our lives now feel the loss, but each loss and each grave points to a Father that triumphed over death, hell and the grave. Jesus is the resurrection and the life and whoever believes in Him shall not perish. Though they may pass through a grave, the grave will have no power over them.
For every father that has had to dig that dreaded hole, or worse, experience even greater loss, I gently remind you to place your heart into the hands of your Heavenly Father. May each tear remind us of a day not so far off where all shadows and graves will become faint scars of a former time.
Until then, Montana, I will dig, and I will love, and I will hurt, and I will do my best to live as an example of a follower of my Redeemer for this and future generations.