We were given another precious gift yesterday to further help us remember the events surrounding the celebration of life that we had for Kyleigh. Our family photographer, who’s both so kind and very talented, was able to set aside her own grief to help us capture the emotions of those days. She did an exceptional job and now we have several images that will stay with us until we’re reunited. Pray the Lord decides to come back soon. He said so you know, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” (Rev 22:20) The writer of the Revelation John responds, “Amen [let it be so]. Come, Lord Jesus.”
I always felt before that there was work that needed to be done before He would return. As if He held off His return until I, Rodger, or the Church universal was finished with whatever tasks He had prepared beforehand for us to walk in (Eph 2:10). I don’t think that’s what the writers of the New Testament had in mind. Many of them were persecuted, imprisoned, and most were executed. Yet when they spoke of Christ’s return, there’s something imminent about it – as if they expected it to happen at any moment. I think now I know why they felt that way.
It’s different now of-course. I long to be set free from the pains of this world not only to be reunited with my Jesus and my daughter, but to live eternally with those that have gone on before. To meet with my grandfather again, a wonderful man who is more of an example to me now that I think he was then. To see the forefathers of our country or of the faith…to know and to be known. To sit in the Light of the Son and to only be able to vaguely remember the darkness. I suspect that the pain we feel today will be such a distant memory then. I like Paul here, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” (Rom 8:22-23) Creation, that which was pronounced to be “very good” now groans for redemption. It’s a stark contrast. I ache for the freedom of redemption yet that’s only half of what I feel. It’s like two seemingly incompatible liquids standing in the same clear glass container. Oil and water, a black-and-tan if you will. They co-exist to form the whole, but they don’t mix. And if the aches and groans are a minority part of the complex whole, what’s the other part? That, I think, is our most unusual response.
Joy. A simple little emotion that can be so elusive particularly when we’re consumed by darkness. I’ve studied the book of James several times in groups and individually, and while there are many verses that can be hard to apply, the second verse is one of them. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…” Sure – whatever James. I’m to consider it a joy when I’m neck deep in a trial whose purpose is to test my faith as to produce endurance. Now to be clear, God didn’t originally design a world in which any of us should perish (in fact He say’s so in 2 Peter 3:9) as death wasn’t part of the original plan. Death is a consequence of the actions taken by our ancestors, actions that I would have undoubtedly taken had I been there and not Adam. But the tests that we encounter are permitted under His sovereign hand and they do serve a purpose. That purpose is to move us along the continuum towards spiritual perfection. That term needs some developing, but that’s for another post. Simply put, God is love (1 John 4:8), and the further that we move along that line the more that we can say that we too, are love. Not that we love, or that we have loved, but that we exude love, we express love, we are love. As we progress on this journey however, we’re guaranteed to suffer, which is one reason that I shutter when I hear someone say that they cannot reflect upon a time in their lives when they have not experienced Holy wrath. I pray they are prepared when that day comes. David was prepared and he too, had a most unusual response.
King David was a man, a great man. A man of prominence, position, wealth, stature and he loved God. But being that he was just a man, he fell – and he fell hard. His falling is recorded for us in 2 Samuel 11 (easy to remember because it’s the bankruptcy chapter – same of his son Solomon in 1 Kings 11). Picking up the story in 2 Samuel 12:13 and following, God strikes his child with sickness who only came about because of the sin that David committed against God. God called that child home for reasons that are known to us, but not so for all the children that He has called home through the ages; early by our estimation yet perfect in His timing. When he heard that his son had died, David’s response was highly unusual. He got up, cleaned himself off, worshiped God, and ate some food. The contrast he showed between when he mourned for his child before death and the behaviors that he demonstrated after his death astonished his contemporaries. He is confident that he will see his child again, and spend eternity with him, but he also knows that his child, every child, belongs to the One that commands every heart to start beating in the womb. I often wonder how he was able to do that in the days following his son’s death. While we’re not given the amount of time that elapsed, I suspect days, not months or years. I’m convinced that Scripture gives us that answer as well.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt 5:4) Folks that allow themselves to mourn, to open their hearts and express the pain that they feel are comforted by God. Blessed – or to be made happy – it’s an interesting idea in the midst of tragedy. Perhaps James was onto something. Friends recently pointed us back to Psalm 126:5. “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.” I’m hardly prepared to throw a party and invite all our friends to our house to celebrate the abundant life that God promises in John 10:10, but I know that my tears provide the pathway through which true joy will once again return to our lips. I can see it today. I hear it in the questions from a 4 year old and the giggles from our 2 year old. I feel it when I hear how Kyleigh’s life and story is prompting people to seek reconciliation…be it with family members, friendships or between the most important of all relationships, our individual response to God’s grace. I see it every night when I settle in with the same woman who I was united with almost 12 years ago. I’m starting to see my own unusual response and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The darkness is a temptress, and I can see how some people would allow themselves to be consumed by it. Allowing my daughter to move from this life to the next was hardly my choice, but how I permit this trial to change me clearly is. Today I choose grace. I pray tomorrow I do the same. I love you Kyleigh. Thank you for helping me see this.