Nothing feels right.
That’s what I told my younger brother Matt, sitting in his boat as we
tried to enjoy an afternoon of fishing, a few days following Max’s memorial
service. He agreed. We had hoped to spend an afternoon on the
lake with Tom to give our brother a brief reprieve from all the attention,
confusion, and conflicting emotions.
When he decided it better to stay with his family, we went ahead, for
the same reasons.
Even though Matt caught a few fish (he always does), there
was no escaping all we were feeling.
Nothing felt right. It was not
right to be fishing while our brother and his family struggled to cope. It was not right to stay home, to not make an
attempt at moving forward. Much of the
time, we simply sat on the water. I sent
Tom this text, “We are thinking and
talking about you guys. Doesn’t feel
right to be out here. Doesn’t feel right
to sit still. Nothing feels right about
any of this. I’m hearing God say, “Be
still and know that I am God.” He
responded, “Enjoy. Just send a picture of your big catch.” Just minutes later, Matt caught a 4-pound drum
on a lure designed to attract black bass.
Along with a picture, I sent this text, “Matt just hooked a drum on a stick bait. Even the fish are confused about how to
behave today.” Humor is a frequent
communication tool in our family, sometimes to mask our feelings, more often to
accentuate them. Tom was with us. Max was with us. That moment felt right, between brothers.
Still, nearly three weeks after Max’s death, nothing feels quite
right. However, I wonder if that is as
Max would have it. I wonder if he ever felt completely right. I wonder if God intends us to ever feel
completely right, in this world that is.
I regret and am sad that my life in Colorado prevented me from knowing this
dear young man for all he truly was and is.
At the same time, I am glad and inspired by him through the stories his
friends and family have shared over the past weeks, the voluminous social media
comments, and by the descriptions I have heard of Max by his employer and
teachers. All described a thoughtful and
caring person, someone who was fully engaged in this world through his
activities and relationships. Also, they
described someone who was different, who in many ways did not fit the typical
teenager mold. He was not right, with
Stories and comments revealed that Max was in this world,
but not of it - not right with it.
Through belly-deep laughter and wrenching tears, his parents and sisters
conveyed both humorous and poignant insights about Max that confirmed he was
often conflicted and uncomfortable with the behaviors of some peers. He frequently struggled with his choices to
not conform to the expectations of his generation. Isn’t
that how it should be for us all? Should
we ever feel completely right in this world?
Romans 12:2 instructs us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by
the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s
will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Max’s faith in
Jesus Christ made him not right with this world. That is why his presence in it was so
powerful and his impact will be so lasting.
It is also why his absence is so painfully evident.
Nothing feels right. Max is no longer with us in this world. Yet, his positive presence is
unmistakable. His family grieves deeply. Yet, his life continues to be
celebrated. I am heartbroken at my
brother’s family tragedy. Yet, I am
gratified by how their community has surrounded them with love. I regret that my opportunity to know Max is
no longer. Yet, I rejoice in his eternal
security and am confident in our eventual reunion. It is right to not feel right in these early
days of conflicting emotions. It is also
right to not feel right in this world as we move on in the days to come, by
Thanks for listening,
Uncle Phil Schwolert
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