Standing In The Gap Of The Real And Perceived
Five funerals have impacted my life this year.
A beloved, lifelong educator who came back from a massive stroke at age 49 and was holding his own against colon cancer at 60, only to be felled by another stroke at 62.
A simple carpenter with a servant’s heart, who had weathered single fatherhood and found love again, entering the hospital one day with heart problems and leaving a few days later, seemingly a victim of an ICU without a single, actual medical doctor manning it.
A Hungarian immigrant who lost her Army Ranger son to suicide in Iraq in 2007, and in her grief lost her will to battle cancer in 2014.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving, Kate, this past Spring the first female ROTC graduate of Gardner-Webb University’s baccalaureate nursing program, with her fiance in a late night interstate head-on collision, six months away from a scheduled commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. She was 22.
Lastly, Grace, our 15-year-old canine family member, everything a dog is supposed to be. Our children have no memory of life without her. I would rather have let her go another way, but at age 90, beggars can’t be choosers. She served and loved well. I dug that hole myself.
As strong as my belief, I will confess that I’m not yet mature enough to say with whole heart, “Oh, Death, where is your sting?”
In fact, I feel more like the kid below.
My one solace in all of this is that although it is apparent that God oftentimes allows, thus far, what He nonetheless does not prefer, that resultant confusion in me is tempered by His assurance that none of my grief is any more permanent than His was at the seemingly senseless death of the only One born, not created, directly from Him. God knows the pain of losing His very own.
In the midst of His sorrow, though, God the Father knew something nobody else did, and in it did not despair. God, as it turns out, had been listening to Tony Campolo.
What was certain to God then is my hope today, that from what I cannot understand, He will bring new, delightful beginnings from definitive, disastrous endings; the eternal from the temporal, the infinite from the finite, even life from death, right before my eyes. Salvation, if you will. Now, and later.
I don’t know how He does it, salvation. But I know I’ve seen it in person. For all my intellectual and spiritual development since then, I still cling to my Savior today, and yes, celebrate His birth, for the same reason I did on a cold, clear October night at the end of a dead-end gravel road 32 years ago: not because I understand Him completely, but because, based on who I believe He is by what I do understand about Him, I know my only hope is to trust Him completely. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!
“As a result of (Jesus talking about the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood) many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.'” – John 6:66-69
Peter, you must be crazy. What do you, have a death wish or something? Sigh. But I’m right there with you, Peter. I’m right there.