A year and a half ago, on March 23rd, 2014 my cousin Tessa, age 27, was killed in a head-on collision by a drunk driver as she was on her way home. She died instantly leaving behind 4 surviving children. The criminal case for it ended just last week.
Her death has impacted our entire family greatly, and still impacts us every day with the loss of her laugh, the loss of her voice, the loss of her opinion, the loss of her touch, her hugs. Every day, it still feels like there is something new to be missed and freshly grieved. Every day is full of her absence, in the big things and in the small things.
My husband and I relocated to Dallas 16 years ago not knowing we had any family in the area. Approximately 5 years after our move, I was excited to learn I had an Aunt and three young cousins who lived nearby. They were as hungry for family as we were and soon joined our weekly Sunday lunches after church.
“If you can’t see His way past the tears, trust His heart.” – Charles Spurgeon
It is one thing to have wounds inflicted by an enemy, another by your closest friend. At times I felt betrayed by God in grief. Why God? Why did you allow it?
The enemy laughs. He uses my own heart to taunt me, “Is this your God? Your friend? Your high counselor? Is this who you serve? Is this who you have committed your life to?”
“Yes” I quietly respond to the assaults. “Though He afflicts me, yet will I trust Him.”
I admit, I am in the dark. I cannot see. I don’t understand why. I don’t know why He allowed somethings this tragedy to happen. Time has passed but I still can’t understand why. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it all.
I try to concentrate and hold on to what I do know. I do know that my God is sovereign. He is aware. He allowed it. He filtered it. He is all good and all loving. He is perfect in all His ways. He could have prevented the accident, He could have spared her life. Just a few weeks prior he had saved and spared her life from another accident. But not this time. This time for reasons I don’t understand, He took her in an instant, in a twinkling of an eye she was taken and we were left. Her place knew her no more, her home knew her no more, her children knew her no more, her husband knew her no more, her mother knew her no more, her sisters knew her no more, her friends knew her no more and I knew her no more. Her life was gone and we did all we could to gather what was left behind of her, to salvage every precious memory and token unless they would somehow disappear too. Yet will I trust Him though I do not understand Him or recognize Him in allowing this.
“Converse much with Christ…Delight to walk with him, to meet him, to view his beauty, to hear his voice, to taste his sweetness. Take all occasions to present yourselves before him. Depart not out of his presence, until he smiles and he speaks kindly to your heart. Stay until he reveals his presence by impressions, light, heat and enlargement. Remain until you find acceptance and peace. Enjoy his presence.” – David Clarkson
I love this. So many Christians, myself included, sometimes struggle with seeing Christ. It’s hard to spend time with someone you don’t see or can’t hear. Prayer time feels awkward and alone as if you are talking to yourself. I’ve been there. You remind yourself of faith in God’s word and the promise of his presence so you keep at it. You keep showing up and talking to your imaginary friend or so it might feel some days because you just can’t see him or sense his presence beside you. As you pray, the park bench next to you seems painfully empty.
Then something happens slowly that you don’t understand. A mysterious peace floods your heart. Anxiety is suddenly gone. Words from what you read that morning or in the days before come suddenly to mind and address your questions, fears and concerns and comfort you. Why didn’t I think of that before? Confusion turns to understanding and acceptance. Before you didn’t know what to do and now you know what you must do. You have been counseled.
There were so many things I loved about Ms. Hazel that I am going to miss. I loved her ornery personality. She was inspirational in her good-humored orneriness. She loved to instigate and rile people up in a fun, playful, good-natured way. I loved her quick wittedness. You never knew what she was going to say or do next. She always kept you on your toes.
I loved how faithful she was especially in attending church. Despite the great pain she constantly endured with her ankles bent, and despite physical weakness and fatigue, she rarely missed a Sunday. For as long as she was physically able, beyond the ability of most people, she slowly made her way through the church doors to hear God’s word even though her way was very difficult to tread. I admired her perseverance and faithfulness.
I recently went to Moore, OK with a small team from my workplace to spend a day helping with the disaster relief from the tornado that swept through it on May 20th. Several of us who were assigned field work, spent the entire day working in a large field right on the edge of the subdivision where the tornado hit Tower Plaza Elementary School and the surrounding neighborhood. We could see the torn roofs in the distance from where we worked in the field beside the highway. We spent the day picking up the fallen debris from the tornado and placing it in large piles so a trailer could come by later and pick them up. We used rakes, garbage bags, wheel barrows and our hands to gather and pile up as much as we could. It was mostly shingles, shredded insulation and siding, a few toys, clothes, scraps of wood, mail and a few pictures we saved and turned in to hopefully be returned to their families. It was a large job and it felt like at the end of the long day of hauling and fighting debris, the debris had won and we had barely made a dent in it. There had been previous teams who had worked the same field before us and there would be additional teams who would work the same field after us. Thankfully the weather was nice. The sky was a bit overcast which offered us protection from the sun all day and a nice gentle breeze helped keep off the sweat. It was simple but back breaking work which left me sore and moving like a stiff board for the next several days.
I recently ran across a passage that I had marked from one of my favorite books called Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss. I don’t read two many novels, but this was one that I ran across that I have bought copies of and insisted it was mandatory reading for my girl friends. You can actually download the free audio version here on Librovox or download and read the free EPUB version from Project Guttenberg here. Or you can purchase a copy on Amazon here.
Below is one of my earmarked pages capturing a conversation about dying and entering Christ’s presence. It stood out to me as I reread the passage recently because we have been talking about death and dying a lot in our weekly women’s bible study at www.calledaside.com. Mainly because we are going through the book of Revelation and it is all about facing “the dread of the King of Terrors“. We were talking just a few weeks ago about the importance of dying well in a lesson called Preparing to Enter Heaven and it has been a lesson that I have been replaying over and over again in my mind, asking myself the same question we asked that evening which is this, “At your funeral, what will people say you loved most? What will people say you lived for? Will Jesus come to their mind? Will they be able to say that you were a person who loved God, who was marked by your love for Jesus?”Continue Reading
It’s hard to share portions of your life and God’s work in it because each story is like a page torn out from a book. You may get a glimpse, a taste but you can’t see and understand His complete work which intertwines and underlies all the stories in your life together, and then intertwines them with the stories of another person’s life that you played into, then intertwines them into the stories of the life of your community, your state, your nation, the world and finally into God’s own story of redemption, the great biblical narrative that rules and holds them all.
It’s like looking at the night sky and seeing a star, and then seeing the solar system that it is a small part of and then seeing it is actually a part of a bigger galaxy which is in turn a part of many galaxies and on and on you go as your story gets smaller and smaller when placed in perspective. It is just a pinhole of God’s glory and can never be contained or captured by anyone or anything. The stories we share are only bits and pieces, small glimpses of a whole that is too great to condense. Even entire autobiographies are only condensed versions of God’s over all work.
Stories are like one dimensional photographs, they are limited in what they share with us. There is so much going on behind the scenes and influencing the scenes that we will never be aware of. They are not relevant to the particular story or the point that the story is trying to emphasis. When a story ends, we no longer know what happened to the lives of the people. They go on. They started before the story and will continue after the story. Our glimpse is only a momentarily glimpse as through a peep hole. So much is left out.