Guns N’ Roses and the Goodness of God

Last week I ministered to a young lady and her family after it was found out that her precious baby girl had died in her womb. Her death was sad and shocking, but the Lord was near.

Yesterday I went to the funeral of a 20-year-old young man who is the youngest son of a couple my wife and I have been blessed to know for about 16 years. His death was sad and shocking, but again the Lord was near.

I know the Lord was near because He has promised to be near the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

I also know the Lord was near because I could feel His presence in these times of tremendous sorrow.

Before the services for both of the departed, I tried to prepare myself and my emotions. I wanted to be strong for parents, families, and others who were mourning. This worked until midway through the funeral service yesterday.

That is when the deceased young man’s mother sang an unexpected song.

Accompanied by a softly-played piano, she sweetly sang a rendition of the Guns ‘N Roses song “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” The only changes she made from the original were changing the “she” to “he” and slightly shortening it. Here are the lyrics:

He’s got a smile it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky
Now and then when I see his face
He takes me away to that special place
And if I’d stare too long
I’d probably break down and cry

Oh, oh, oh
Sweet child o’ mine
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Sweet love of mine

He’s got eyes of the bluest skies
As if they thought of rain
I hate to look into those eyes
And see an ounce of pain
His hair reminds me of a warm safe place
Where as a child I’d hide
And pray for the thunder
And the rain
To quietly pass me by

Oh, oh, oh
Sweet child o’ mine
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Sweet love of mine

I know these lyrics were written by Axl Rose about his then-girlfriend, but in that moment it transformed into a song from a grief-stricken mother to her much-loved son. And that is when my pent-up tears began flowing.

I never expected to cry while listening to a Guns N’ Roses song, but I should always expect the Lord to be near the brokenhearted.

Because His promises are always kept.

 

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And So I Rest

It’s 5pm last Friday.

The basketball team my two nine-year-old boys play for is warming up for their 5:30 game at the community center. Our head coach is talking to the opposing coach while our assistant coach is trying to get our players to do their lay-ups correctly. I’m the assistant coach and my efforts are proving to be mostly futile.

It’s 5:30pm last Friday.

The game is underway. Our team, Reno’s Sporting Goods, is playing the Knicks (the ones from Harriman, not New York). In spite of some early travelling calls, we start off strong. As the assistant coach my main responsibilities during the game are keeping up with how many fouls each player has and helping the head coach direct traffic from the sideline. I end up yelling  “get back” a lot.

It’s 6:25pm last Friday.

The game is over. In spite of some late travelling calls, we won. I have previously informed my kids (the two who have been playing and the three who have been spectating) to get to me quickly after the game. I have a funeral to preside over at 7pm and since my wife is working they all have to go with me. I wore suit pants, a dress shirt, and a sweater vest (which undoubtedly was the key to victory) during the game so all I will need to do once we get to the van is put on my tie and suit coat. My two boys who have been playing ball will have to take off their shorts and put on jeans. They aren’t too thrilled about this and, after smelling how they smelled, I wasn’t either.

It’s 7pm last Friday

The funeral is underway with the director leading me to a chair behind the casket. We arrived there around 6:45 giving me enough time to speak with the family and go over the order of service. After an opening song I stand at the podium and seek to speak words of comfort about life, death, and the gift of salvation offered by Jesus their deceased loved one had accepted many years prior. After my message, I sit while another song is played and then rise again to say a closing prayer. During the prayer I hear a distant sound of someone passing gas. I find out after the service that the accidental gas-passer was my 5-year-old. She doesn’t want to talk about it.

It’s 8:05pm last Friday.

We’re back at the community center. My oldest son has an 8:30 game and I am surprised we were able to be here early. The game being played when we arrive is a close one; there is much shouting. I resist the urge to yell “get back.” My son’s game begins on time, but ends late. It goes into overtime. Mr. Clean’s Car Wash, my son’s team, plays valiantly with their three top scorers on the bench after fouling out, but they go down in defeat. I collect my kids and trudge toward the van.

It’s 10:20pm last Friday

My kids are in bed and I’m sitting in a recliner thinking about whiplash of the emotional variety that nights like tonight have the ability to cause. From the excitement of two of my boys winning a basketball game to the sadness of mourning with those who mourn to the excitement of another of my boys almost winning a basketball game, it has been a strange evening.

But I am at peace; I don’t have whiplash. Jesus conquered death and brought life to all who trust Him. Even when it’s strange, it remains abundant and eternal. I can face days like last Friday because of Good Friday; I can face days full of stress because the tomb is empty.

And so I rest.