Sleeping with Grief

Bill and I have been talking about sleep lately–an area of our lives that either gets too much priority or not enough. We obsess over it, giving up good things in order to get the amount we need to “feel good,” or we pridefully think we can go without. So we committed yesterday morning to hold each other accountable to have a gospel-centered view of sleep.

Less than an hour after we made that commitment, my mother called choking out unbelievable words: “Before you hear it on social media, I wanted to tell you that Michael, Monica, Joshua, and Caleb were killed in a car accident last night.”

A commitment to sleep suddenly felt very stupid.

Cruce_FamilyMichael was the youth director of the church I grew up in. My parents have now been part of that church for 31 years. It’s the kind of church I still call “mine,” the family I still keep in close contact with because I just can’t quite let them go (21 years there, yo), the people I still rejoice and weep with, the ones I still love watching grow in maturity and wisdom and grace.

Bill was part of that church, too, for a couple of years. 15 months of his time, he was the interim music director. Michael was hired on during our last 5 months there before we left for Louisville.

Too short of a time to be around this beautiful family.

Michael always smiled. Always. He bled Jesus. Like you couldn’t get Michael to have a casual conversation without him bringing Christ’s name up. He made you believe Jesus was worth worshiping, and he unintentionally made you realize how you worship everything but.

Monica was quiet, soft spoken, sweet. Everything I’m not. So obviously, I really liked her. I hadn’t had nearly enough conversations with her, but over the past couple of months, God graciously brought her back in my life. They were foster-to-adopt parents. At the times I’ve been most overwhelmed, she’s been there to encourage me and give me wisdom. A woman who barely knows me except through my parents and brief encounters once a year, taking time to build a sister up.

Then the call.

No more. No more conversations with Monica. No more Instagram pictures of eternity-focused verses from Michael. No more youth pictures with him lying on the ground in front of the group, probably covered in mud. No more watching two CRAZY little boys growing into mature, godly men. No more.

Sleep wanted to come, but only tears. Endless, burning, choking tears. Tears that pushed me to obsessively check social media just to feel others’ tears, too, to be back with my family, holding each other up.

Sleep felt wrong. I wanted to feel. But eventually, much earlier than usual, it came. The body can only take so much.

And now, new mercies. A rested body that’s grace from God. And the reminder that the Cruces are sleeping, too.

It is not death for the believer to die. “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14) They’re all four with Jesus, in the most peaceful sleep in the history of ever. And their rising up won’t be just for a day, but for eternity.

They’re not dead, only sleeping.

So tonight, I accept sleep joyfully, reminded my body isn’t strong enough on its own. It has to be recharged, held up only by the love of Christ. And one day, I’ll be alongside the Cruces with the same Christ who energized my body for him all these years. The one in whom my soul rests, waiting for the last sleep and the eternal morning.

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