Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sweetly Broken: Until Again We Embrace

The times we face that overwhelm us, that threaten to swallow us, that are black and bleak all around us, these are the times when we must stand. So many times we think that if things get tough, we don't have to be obedient to the commands of God. But in these moments we forget that it is the commands of God that provide us a way back to Him. We are the broken. We are unholy and we seek things apart from Him. We think we don't have to be faithful when things get tough, and then it is our unfaithfulness that separates us from the only One who can save us.

Far too often we stick to our belief only when life is safe, but when things get challenging, and we come to that moment for which we were created to stand... we throw away our faith for an easy exit. In that moment we forfeit the person God was shaping us to become. We tell God that the thing we fear to lose is worth more to us than our relationship with Him. We place that person or that thing above Him. "God, I'm not willing to give THAT to you." And we sacrifice our belief on the alter of self. And in that moment we turn our hearts away from God as we mutter, "why would a just God allow this to happen?"

How is it that we do not understand that He created a perfect garden? It was our choice to reject Him that led us away from His embrace. He then sacrificed and suffered to bring us back. His suffering on the cross, taking on my sin, paying the price, was greater. Only humanity could sin, separating us from the eternal life of God, and only the sacrifice of that Holy God could pay the price of death. Life had to die to pay the death tag of sin.

My grandmother, Ruth Mathis was my foundation of faith. I've watched this lady my entire life stare challenges and difficulty in the face. I've seen her weak moments. I've seen when she wanted to run. But more often than that I've seen her hit her knees and become broken before God. I've seen her yield to Him over and over. 

Today my uncle Stephen Skyped me as I worked at my desk. He took the computer over to my little Mammaw as she lay in her bed, propped up with soft pillows and beautiful quilts as the sun beamed softly onto the fabric next to her. She was struggling to breath, gasping rapidly and open-mouthed. I had gathered my family around the screen on this end, and Stephen asked me to talk to her. 

I felt so awkward, uncomfortable and on the spot. And then I realized that this moment wasn't about me, I needed to reach out to her. The nurse said that she could hear and understand us even though she couldn't react. I began to speak to her about our favorite times in the past. After I'd finished, the nurse said that every time I spoke to her, her breathing calmed. 

Stephen asked me to pray. My heart nearly burst as he described how I used to come over as a child and we'd pray together into the night. And then he said, "all right, Chad is going to pray for you." I couldn't talk. I couldn't even breath. Everyone looked at me and I was petrified. I took a breath and began to pray.

I don't know what I said but I felt my soul emptying across the expanse between us. I relived amazing days filled with her energy, laughter, and smile. I remembered the first time she met each of my children, the faith she passed to me, the feeling that somehow the universe was right and God could be good and suffering was worth it because of the way that she loved me. I thanked her for being a Godly woman, and for giving me what I needed to grow. 

I promised her that her legacy continues and that what she taught me I live out and tell to others. She is making a difference and would continue to do so through my children for generations. I told her I love her and I look forward to the day we are all united again in the presence of God. I said my last words to her in the presence of God and in the witness of my family. With my eyes wet, my chest bursting, and my hands trembling, I spoke, "amen." 

Twice during my prayer I had stopped because I thought the Skype session had disconnected. Her rapid breathing had calmed to a regular cadence. Her face was relaxed. She was with us as we reached out and touched God together. This time was a tough time, and yet we had stood together as she had taught me through a life time of living. I will live a life that pleases my God and honors her.

We ended the call. Her breathing was slowed and we all were near weeping. 

A few minutes later Stephen called me back. He had gone to her and told her it was ok to go. She had been fighting all morning with her vitals nearly stopping... and then racing back... to then slowly tug back down. He told her that her Grandma and Grandpa, her mom Elsie and dad Jim were waiting. He had joked that her husband was in heaven honking the car horn... trying to rush her out of the house like on so many Sunday mornings past... and that he was waiting on her. He told her that God was ready to hug her home. He told her it was ok to go.

She took a couple of calm, slow breaths... and then she went home.

I will see you again my sweet Mammaw. Until that time, my days will honor you.

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