Christian Living

singlepurpose 11/25/09

Small, Good Things in the Midst of Grief

An Interview with Matt Brouwer

Recently, I had the great pleasure of meeting the very talented musician, Matt Brouwer, at a conference I attended in Houston where he led worship. This past October, Matt received the Covenant Award for “Fan Choice Artist of the Year.” At 31, Matt is still dating, and learning to look for the “small, good things” in life.

Julie: What is the best part about single life?


Matt: Being able to respond to an opportunity without hesitation or prior responsibilities. I have been able to experience some amazing things at a moment’s notice—like an overseas trip—because someone canceled last minute. So that kind of freedom is definitely an advantage.


Julie: What has been the hardest part?


Matt: Not having someone to share the ups and downs of life with. I've always been one of those people who experiences something great and immediately I have to tell someone about it. It can be hard to travel so much and not have that one person to share everything with.


Julie: Share a special lesson you’ve learned this year.


Matt: I read a short story a few years ago called “A Small, Good Thing” by Raymond Carver. The exact details of the plot are a little sketchy in my memory, but essentially the story tells of a married couple who have a young daughter (their only child) and she is about to have a birthday. In anticipation of the big day, the parents order a birthday cake from a local bakery. Days later, tragedy strikes and the daughter is hit by a car and badly injured. The couple goes through all of the emotional horrors of waiting for the little girl to wake up, but instead she suddenly dies, even to the shock of the doctors.


The couple finds themselves having to go down to the bakery to cancel the previously ordered birthday cake, now that their daughter is gone. When the baker realizes why they are cancelling the order, he immediately softens, inviting the emotionally despondent couple to sit while he serves them fresh pastries. The food and the conversation offer simple comfort and, though it is mostly unspoken, the three people begin to share the grief in a small but powerful way.


I experienced one of these moments not long ago on a mid-June evening after my sister's funeral at her family’s farm in Ontario. At 42 she died of cancer, leaving behind her husband and three teenage kids. After the funeral was over everyone was exhausted, emotionally wrung out, and physically drained. When we got back to the house, I noticed right away that my nephews were missing. I was told that they were out back somewhere in the dark, making a campfire.


The fresh air hit my face as I stepped out of the house to follow the flickering light of the distant campfire. When I got closer, I found four of my nephews sitting around the fire. Sitting down with them, I was amazed that two of these young men had just watched their mother’s coffin get lowered into the ground. I was amazed because their earlier sullen faces and almost complete silence had now given way to initiative. A campfire was something they loved…something they knew about. So along with two other cousins, they left the solemn crowd and built a fire.


For a while we all sat, mostly silent, under the dark clear night as it revealed a breathtaking view of the stars. But the night sky soon became the subject of our conversation. We pointed out planets and guessed at which ones they might be, watched falling meteorites, and strained to catch the moving satellites along their paths. We talked about how cool it must be to travel into space and see the earth from that perspective. We talked about how hard it is to fathom beginnings and endings in the face of something so huge as the universe. We talked and talked into the night.


Though topics really weren't all that important, the moment was rare and precious—a small, good thing in the midst of grief and loss, where a bit of comfort was found in something as simple as a campfire. I will never forget that moment—the stars, the conversation, and the campfire—all reminders that God is with us even in dark places, in sadness, in silence.


Julie: Can you encourage a struggling single who feels lonely or discouraged?


Matt: Don't sweat it! It's easy for me to say this right now since I'm now in a serious relationship with an awesome girl, but it's still true. There are so many wonderful advantages about all stages of life. I have thoroughly enjoyed my single years, and I’ve realized that the times of stressing out that I'd never find, “the one” never helped the situation. I've heard this saying so many times that it started making me angry, but it's so true. The best way to be in a position to find something you desperately want? Stop looking for it.


More about Matt Brouwer:


Matt’s organic pop melodies reveal a lyrical honesty that is both refreshing and, at times, raw. His heart is to serve, and to make a lasting impact where there is great need, both at home and around the globe. He and friends founded New Beginning Resources (NBRI), a relief organization that operates in Guatemala, Haiti and Ecuador. NBRI’s goal is to support missionaries and medical work, and to help educate children and give them hope for a brighter future. Amidst mission travels and making music, a grounding factor in Matt’s life is his church community. He’s a part-time worship leader and artist-in-residence at The Woodlands United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.


To learn more or check out his inspiring and music, visit Matt Brouwer's Web site!


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