You know I really want to be okay with the fact that I have no chance of being mistaken for a young woman, but that’s a post for another time. This is a post about the benefit of having gone through a lot as a relative youngster, and how the resultant gift of faith is a tremendous blessing.
Today would be my brother Craig’s 52nd birthday. He died in the summer of 2002 in a small plane crash, and honestly my whole family was still getting over the shock of losing my dad in late 1999. My dad had had a heart attack on on an airplane coming to see me. In between the world-shaking death of my dad, and the sudden loss of my brother, my uncle spiraled out of control with mental illness and ultimately took his own life. I’ve written and spoken about this elsewhere, but yes, grief-stricken years, to say the least.
I’m sure you know that heartache and disappointment can sometimes harden people. A bitter root can sometimes find fertile soil in sorrow. But by God’s grace, I don’t believe that has been true for me. Instead, I think maybe I’ve aged prematurely. Let me explain.
I’ve been reading the latest book from Susan Alexander Yates. She is a pastor’s wife (the wife of one of our former pastors in Virginia), and a pretty prolific writer and speaker. The book, Risky Faith, has a whole section contrasting the differences between how a person matures “naturally” and how we as Christians mature spiritually.
In the midst of this section, Susan observes, “When I sit with older men and women I notice they have learned what really matters. Years of acquiring biblical knowledge, walking through blessing and tragedy yet experiencing God’s faithfulness–no matter what–has simplified their faith. They have learned to let go of many things. And in their letting go they have come to a resting place, relying on Him.”
I by no means have acquired the biblical knowledge that I could have or should have by now. I do not think I am particularly skilled at letting go of many things. I’m sure I should have a better handle on what really matters. Susan’s observations do not describe me in their entirety. But I have had first row seats to experience God’s faithfulness — no matter what! And I do think that my faith has indeed been simplified, and that’s a gift. It may be a little premature, but it’s also a treasure I hope I never take for granted.
I have a couple recordings of Craig singing that I’ve put on my phone, and yesterday I drove around singing along with him on a continuous loop. The name of the song? Please Remember Me. Maybe that gives you a sharp jab in the heart like it does me. You may wonder why I would choose to do something which actually self-inflicts a lot of pain. Maybe it is sort of a strange thing to do, but I have reasons: (1) I miss Craig terribly and even if it hurts I still loving singing with him; and (2) I can’t relive those sorrow-filled days without also remembering God’s faithfulness, and remembering God’s sustaining grace and comfort is vitally important.
You may or may not know the depths of despair, but I believe reminding yourself of God’s faithfulness is an important discipline even if your valleys thus far have been shallow and brief. A major theme throughout the Bible is Remember. Communion is about remembrance, giving thanks is about remembrance. The Bible reminds us that we are dust, and that God breathed this whole beautiful world into existence. Today I remember the thirty years I soaked up the love of my brother Craig. I am so grateful for the eleven years that Will and Craig were the best of buds — seeing them laugh together was one of my very favorite things. Today I remember that even when life falls apart, your heart is torn to pieces, and your chest physically hurts from grief, that the words of Jesus have proven true in my life.
I will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5).
I’m still buying new big sunglasses and earrings to hide my physical age. I’m not yet embracing my many laugh lines, but I am also overwhelmed with gratitude for my bit of premature aging. Perhaps I should buy a rocking chair for the front porch where I can gently glide back and forth and tell all comers: God. Is. Faithful. No matter what.
Swing on by and see this old soul! Just don’t ask me to take off my sunglasses.
Love to YOU,