In some ways it seems like just yesterday and in others it seems lifetimes have flown by the white cross beside the highway where they were ushered into eternity. I often wonder what they would think of their legacy if they could see me now. Would they be proud of the man the Lord is trying to create in me or would they shake their heads at the mess I still am? Would they rejoice in the deliberate choices we are making to invest for eternity in our children or would they think we are full of nonsense like others around us now? There are a million questions without answers when you go down this road but it does not stop the mind from wondering, at least once a year.
As a man interested in generational faithfulness I try to write something meaningful each year on this day to proclaim the excellencies of the God who worked in and through my parents to shape them and thereby shape me. It has been my desire from the moment I heard that they were called to glory to “not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13) but rather to give glory to the Sovereign God who ordained before the foundation of the world, the number of my parent’s days and the valley for me that would follow them. Some years I have felt very eloquent, this year – not so much. The reflection time necessary to meditate deeply on the Word of God and what it says about this journey have been scarce. However, I do not want this day to go by without telling of the glorious deeds of the Lord to coming generation (Ps. 78:1-8). So allow me then to reprint my thoughts on this day from 2007:
(Originally printed August 2007 in a letter sent to a team of prayer warriors who, for reasons known only to themselves and God, choose to love and pray for this pauper.)
I pray that this finds you well and enjoying the bliss of the great favor of the Almighty who out of His great providence and beneficence elected to lavish His great love and blessings on you! Think of it for just a moment, the God Most High, King of All, Creator, Sustainer, Yahweh himself, obligated to no one, chose to make Himself known to you and not only known, but to grant to you unfettered access to Himself, His love, His care, His power through the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ! What an amazing truth!
Forgive me if I am waxing theological but I have been in a contemplative mood this week and I felt compelled to share of the greatness of my GOD! If you will indulge me, can I tell you of the wonderful work of God in my life? Some of you have walked with me long enough on this path following the Master to know my story well (and if you tire of hearing of my ranting, please read no further and accept my apologies for troubling you); some of you do not so let me share with you the glory of God! Some folks who have heard my story have looked at me as if I have accomplished something, as if I am somebody and I am compelled to set the record straight.
The historical story of this week in years passed will not easily be forgotten in the recent future for those of this generation, this is the week that Princess Diana died. The world pauses to remember her passing every year because she still captures the imagination of the West. This very anniversary makes this week and the contemplative mood it brings to me inescapable. Before some of you begin to think I have lost my mind and become a tabloid connoisseur, no my thoughts have nothing to do with the late Princess of Wales. My thoughts turn to another anniversary, one that is very personal to me, the home-going of two of the greatest examples of godliness I have had the privilege of watching, my parents. These two events are forever tied together since they happen a day apart, Diana on 08-31-1997 and my parents 08-30-1997.
It is hard to imagine that it has really been ten years since that defining moment in my life. What is ten years really? Is ten years only the 315,532,800 seconds; or the 5,258,880 minutes; or the 87,648 hours; or the 3,652 days which comprise the passage of the clock? In a very concrete sense our lives are bound by the unyielding march of time but must that define our existence?
There was a time in the early part of the decade that has passed where I was not sure I could make it through the passage of time. The pain was incredible, the loneliness crushing, the frustration of powerlessness consuming. I was not sure I would ever be able to contribute again because the smallest thing incapacitated me with grief, the words of my Mom ringing in my ears telling me that my name meant “Valiant Warrior” and all I seemed able to do was cower in the corner pleading with the God on whom I had staked all of my existence for deliverance and help.
Praise the Lord that His character is true, He is eternally faithful, He is completely good, He is perfectly loving and He had begun from eternity past to prepare the way for His work in my life through this dark valley of the soul. He was meeting my need before I knew I had one. From the details of my school experience which allowed me to spend more time with my parents than some of you will spend with your’s in a “normal” life time, to the financial convictions that Jesus had laid on my parents hearts that allowed me the freedom to grieve in a home that was paid for before my parents died. Even the intentionality of the parenting in our home that instilled in my heart from a young age the awareness of the constant presence of God and the rightful utter dependence we have on Him for all things even the material things. Every step was laid out to accomplish the will of our God in my life.
Does this mean that everything that my parents did was correct or good? No. As a matter of fact God used a misdirected attempt to expand my skill for wise living by my Dad in the final weeks of his life to teach me that I could not use my parents as my canon for life, their experience and wisdom had to be measured against Truth found in the Scriptures.
What this does mean is the story that everyone needs to know is the story of a God who is faithful and who has continued to deliver on His promise to “[cause] all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” I would have never chosen to walk this path, but I would not chose to not learn the truths my God burned into my soul about Himself either.
What did I learn from the hand of God in the past ten years? I learned the power of a faithful life when I saw 1500+ people cram into a church and overflow into the parking lot to honor a simple homemaker and a high school educated handyman. Heaven will only know the impact that final testimony of the gospel that my parents loved had in the lives of those who watched it walked out in a simple ordinary couple.
I learned that God sometimes uses a house-cat to be His arms of comfort in the dark of pre-dawn hours. (Why do we sometimes discount the miraculous way God will use every aspect of His creation to accomplish His purpose?)
I learned that I personally need the Body of Christ to operate as God intended. In the years that have passed I have seen the Body in it finest work as Christ’ representative on the earth and I have seen the church in its most broken and corrupted debauchery. God has given me a burning passion for the Truth which molds the Body into the image of Christ because I was carried by the Body when it resembled the Savior and I was wounded by the church when the cancer of sin destroyed the image of Christ within it.
I have learned what the scriptures meant when it says, “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” (Gen. 24:67)
I have learned that God is in absolute control and He desires to work in an environment where He alone will be glorified. This requires us to be in a place of utter dependence which, while completely contrary to our flesh, is the place where God is nearest. God placed me in a position where He alone could carry me, He alone could provide for me, and He alone could raise me up for I was powerless. In that place of such broken impoverished spirit He began to teach me about Himself in a way that was unprecedented in my life.
I have learned what it means to be led by the Spirit in even the mundane things in my life. As I struggled under the mantle of manhood that was hastily thrown on my shoulders as my earthly Father went home, I was forced to seek the face of God as never before and I have had the joy of watching Him lead me!
What then is the point of this very long letter? First, the point is that I am thankful for the journey Jesus has carried me on for the last ten years. I am thankful for the wonderful heritage my parents gave me. I am thankful for the great privilege and responsibility of having godly parents, I have been richly blessed! I am thankful for the anchor of knowing God’s character that can only be forged in the fires of great pain. I am thankful for all of you! You have been tools in the hands of a loving God to shape and mold me.
Secondly, I wanted to give testimony of the greatness of God during times of great pain because some of you may be in the dark night of the soul right in this moment. The King of the Universe is not slack in His promises and He is working. It has taken 10 years and gallons of tears for me to see the joy and gratitude that will come from traversing the valley if we only cling to Him who loved us more than His own life, Jesus! Do not confuse love manifested with the absence of pain. Many times in life the most loving path is one of great pain. Love is manifested in that not only has Jesus Himself promised that He is with His children always but that He is also the sympathetic High Priest who lived here and experienced life’s incredible pain as a man which allows Him to intercede before God the Father for you as one having experiential knowledge.
Finally and most importantly, it is my greatest desire that God be glorified! He alone is the reason for any good thing in my life. He has sustained this servant and has more than sustained, He has richly blessed me. I am incapable in myself of producing some of the incredible evidences of His presence that I have seen come out of this journey. He alone is wise and good. I am nothing, He is of infinite value. I am powerless, He is Omnipotent.
There is so much more I could say about the glory of God in His work in my life but this letter is long enough. If you want to hear more, give me a call, we can take a walk in the park and I will tell of the greatness of God while we walk on the way. I am not sure why I felt compelled to write this but I could not rest until it was finished. I pray that God will show Himself to you today and I pray He uses His story in my life to His glory even in your life.
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”