Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Burial

There is a verse in scripture that can seem annoyingly heartless out of context. It is when Christ tells the man to let the dead bury their own dead...I used to read that and wonder...what on earth is Christ asking of that man? I once heard a sermon explain evidence that the man’s father was not in the process of dying, but just that he was elderly. Who knows how long he was asking Christ to wait for him. But Jesus said, “No. Nothing ought to precede your obedience to follow me.” Not even waiting for someone to die.

In 1998, when we felt prepared to move for God’s call on our Life & Tom’s career changes, and we decided to sell our condo, we were poised for Virginia Beach and Regent University. Tom had been accepted, we were ready to go. But then Tom’s dad was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, better known as Lou Gehrigs Disease). Then Grandma had her first brain bleed. And a second.

We postponed our move because we wanted to be near them, and we wanted to, in some morbid way, wait until they died.

But neither one of them died for a very long time. Tom’s dad’s diagnosis was April, 1998; Grandma’s hemmhorage was August 1998. Grandma died in July 2003; Tom's dad six weeks later, in September. Five years after we postponed our obedience to God’s call, then they died. So, our move was delayed only 12 months later than the original Call--what was the harm in that?

Unfortunately for us, Tom’s parents moved to Florida to ease the winter burden on Tom's dad's failing body, so although we had been living less than 5 miles from them, our staying in Connecticut didn’t afford much more time with him. I did have a great deal of enriching time with Grandma in Connecticut, but it was really in her final weeks (five years later) that I had the most intimate times with her--singing to her, massaging her shoulders, holding her hands, and most importantly, introducing her to her great grandson, Logan. So, we stayed to be with them when they died; but they didn’t die until we were again by their sides having traveled from a distance--I was with Grandma on her deathbed in Michigan, and Tom was likewise in Florida with his dad.

In addition, the program Tom originally applied to at Regent was changed within months of our arrival. Would the first plan have been a better one for us? I refuse to play the Woulda Coulda Shoulda game, but I know that things were different by a year. However, look at all the good that came from 2000. I turned 30 in Connecticut and was able to share that with our friends just one day before our move. We were sent off well. Tom & I each benefitted from amazing career changes as we entered the new phase of our lives, just 12 months delayed.

I do not know how God works when we make certain decisions instead of others. Each moment of time exists only as it is played out, so I cannot say we made a mistake, even, by not moving in the Fall of ‘98. I can see so many wonderful things that transpired from Fall 1998 to Spring 2000 for both of our families. But, what I can see is that it is not our call when to follow His Call! If he says, “Follow me,” we are to Go!

So here we are, in October, 2006. One year ago we dedicated our future to Christ, asking him to take us wherever he wanted us to go--and for a full year we worked towards that goal. We proved to Him that we meant it by selling our house and stretching ourselves out at the Starting Line, ready for the shot to ring out to RUN forward! I did not know that anyone was dying when we prayed our dedication prayer, but I knew I would soon give birth. I did not ask what the consequences might be in our asking to be guided forward--we just trusted and stepped out. We were bold, daring, and full of great hopes.

Teagan was born one day before Grandpa turned 88, so he got to hold her as a Birthday Gift on Pearl Harbor Day, 2005.

As it turned out Grandpa died a year after our act of obedience, on a Monday, and just one day after his funeral Tom was offered the very job we had been praying for since last October 8th. One year of preparation came together in one fast weekend with just two weeks' timeframe to get out of town. We are now boxing our living quarters and preparing, again, to follow God into what he has prepared for us. This time, we didn’t have to be faced with the decision to wait, or not wait, for someone to die. With melancholy I say, God took care of that. When our answers were delayed I said to some friends that I wondered if we were being asked to wait, by God, because Grandpa was ill. The timing was uncanny--Logan and Colin celebrated an early birthday together on Friday, March 17th, and that very day Grandpa was hospitalized wtih pneumonia. Because the situation was serious, Uncle Larry came down, and Mom & George stayed longer than anticipated (they were here to celebrate Logan’s birthday). Then, because they were here, Larry, Mom & George were able to help us pack and move! Without their assistance, we could never have done it all in a single day!

But Grandpa didn’t die then. He recovered. Sort of.

Grandpa got sick again in June. He was hospitalized again. Uncle Larry & Mom came to Williamsburg, again. But he didn’t die. Jesus wasn’t ready for him, yet, because we still had a big Family Gathering to celebrate together! So, he healed and after six weeks we all traveled to Traverse City to celebrate Uncle Larry’s (belated) 60th birthday. Grandpa was able to see Anja & Becky, Aunt Betty, Cousins Betsey, Louis, Rebecca, Todd, Gayla, Nancy and many of their brood. He was able to see his brother, and visit with his nephews. We took precious family photos and he was able to enjoy the bountiful glory of my parents’ first summer on the Bay! There we all were, together, as God had planned!

So, when he had his fourth (for the year) major illness, we were all with him. We all went to the hospital. We were all dealing with the same thoughts simultaneously. And then we all had hopes for his healing.

Tom and I were still in a holding pattern with the Lord--just waiting on his answer in Tom’s career change. As Tom decided to step forth to serve God in MINISTRY to secure a better future for our children, God said, “Yes, I’ll give that to you, but wait. A number of things have to play out here, first.”

So, Grandpa made a bold attempt at healing by undergoing two major life-threatening surgeries. And he was recovering well after each! So well, in fact, that nurses & physicians were prone to exclamation. But, a number of odd things internally changed his progress swiftly and he died.

He died and shocked all of us. But God wasn’t surprised--He had laid it all out from the foundation of the earth.

Grandpa’s funeral was set for Saturday, September 30th. On October 1st, the very next day, Tom got the CALL that changed everything--this is THE very thing we’d waited for since October 8th, 2005! And, when he accepted the job, we looked over our first pages of prayer requests. God had done it all. Because we were unhindered from home ownership already, we are able to pack quickly since so many items are already boxed in storage from our move of seven months ago. God hadn’t made us choose to wait for Grandpa to die--but he made us choose to wait for his answer to our prayers, and in that waiting, he took Grandpa away. I know I can write that more artfully, because it is a situational irony that is skillfully shaped by a most creative God. How can I do anything but praise Him for his goodness?!

So, we left it all behind, and God was faithful! Even over the weekend--Uncle Larry & Aunt Linda flew home on Sunday morning after a full week in Williamsburg. We celebrated Grandpa’s funeral in Michigan, but his Memorial Service last week in his hometown of nearly 40 years, Williamsburg. So, here they were again, Uncle Larry and George, helping us load & unload a washer and dryer! Where would we be without this timing of God!? None of my friends or Tom’s are available for us at this time--each has his or her own necessary occupations. But, God knew we’d need someone to help, so he provided, again, by giving us Uncle Larry & George--unexpectedly in town on both of our moving weekends!

I’m astounded. I see only Answers, Answers, Answers!! Who would not see the glory of God in all of this, even in the sadness?

Selah!!

Reference:
The Cost of Following Jesus
Matthew 8: 18-22
When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

Luke 9:59-62
He said to another man, "Follow me." 
But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good bye to my family."
Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

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