The sun came up, a new day was dawning. The end was nigh, strength failing, his time had come. Stillness, the sound of the sun waking up a new day filled the room. Hot fiery pink and golden red colors spilled through the large picture windows. Eyes closed, breath coming longer between moments. A gentle heartbeat under his plaid shirt softening with each long pause. A breath, then a pause longer than the last.
He called me Babe, his deep voice laced with the southern notes of his Arkansas upbringing. A child of the 1920s had made it back into the ’20s, 2020. I shared this thought with him on his 98th birthday and his eyes grew large with surprise, shock, and then delight! A beaming smile made his aged face appear young. From plowing the fields with mules and keeping milk cool in the creek, to this modern world of cellphones and refrigeration, Buey had season upon season of experiences. He was quick to laugh and loved explaining to anyone who had not yet learned the skill, how to wipe with one square of toilet paper. A handy skill to have during the great toilet paper crisis! I’m happy to share this talent thanks to his solid education.
Closer to the time most people are downsizing in life and moving into smaller homes, Buey and his wife Nevel built an expansive home on 10 acres of lovely land overlooking a valley of agriculture. This space was for family, friends, and entertaining. First and foremost it was a place for family, which was the most important thing to him. Family was his delight and he sought out times to ask personal questions about the lives of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Nothing brought Buey greater pleasure than having his family around him in the home he’d built with his dreams and hard work.
There we were, the family Buey so loved, in the home he so loved, sharing his life in its last moments. Tears filling our eyes, racked with the pain of saying goodbye to someone so very precious, yet encouraging him with all our love. Our words were of the deepest care and thanks for being the patriarch who led us with favorite phrases like, “Keep your chin up” as he took a finger under his own chin and pointed it to heaven.
How could a breath take so long? Was that the last one?
Stillness filled the space full of family.
Will another breath lift the chest of this son seeking rest?
Another came, heartbeat barely visible now, and then a long slow exhale of surrender.
His passing filled me with the deepest pain and sorrow that stirred the age-old question,
“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”— Psalm 119:50
Death, the great equalizer, comes for us all. The old and the young, sick and healthy, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. Rejoice in your suffering as something lovely is being formed. What? Yes! What is that “something” you and I both ask? I find most people suffering don’t hasten to thank God for the misery. Yet, we have a high calling in times of suffering to rejoice. (Romans 5:3-6) Scripture acknowledges that suffering and death are promised to us all but it’s not the end of our story. Though we have a promised destination of wholeness and happiness, are we able to delight in the journey here and now, even if that journey is fraught with difficulties?
Can hurt and good go together, so seemingly separate in experience? Some hurts have a greater sting than others, but we all experience the sting. Are our needs greater than His provision and therefore we must endure the suffering? How do we rejoice when we hurt?
Have you ever felt your need was greater than His provision?
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” — Romans 5:3-6
Consider a pine tree’s serotinous cones. They hang on the tree for years, long after the enclosed seeds mature. Only when a fire sweeps through, melting the resin, do these heat-dependent cones open up, releasing seeds that are then distributed by wind and gravity. Roaring flames consuming a forest is the only way of breaking through the hard seal of resin to release new seeds of life. Those seeds then become new forests with heat-dependent cones of their own waiting for the fire. The hurt of heat brings forth new life.
As a mother of two, the journey of labor had me groaning through the intensity. Both times I faced a place in my mind where I doubted that I could endure the agony. I wasn’t able to know how many contractions it was going to take or how long the labor would last. I can tell you, they call it labor for a reason! Sounds that resembled whale recordings from the ocean kept escaping my mouth as I either attempted to run from the waves of suffering or give in and agree to the painful process. I was utterly lost to time and the freedom of controlling my body. Through the hurt, something so very good was produced. Hurt and good were hand in hand as my children went from being held in my womb to cradled in my arms. Without labor, there’s no life.
Ultimately the murder of Jesus Christ is a profound place to examine the complexities of humanity’s hurts and the goodness of God. Our Savior experienced the deepest hurts and suffering even after He asked our Father to remove the cup of death put before Him. (Matthew 26:39) Jesus released His will to a GOOD Father. His death was GOOD. His victory within surrender shows us that we can rejoice in suffering.
He faced this suffering with hurts and fears, knowing that the fire would be great, but the burnt cone would release a precious gift.
Heat and labor bring forth heaven into the hurting hearts of humanity – affording goodness for us all.
Jesus’ hurt was our healing. His hurts became our hope, and hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need. This is why we can rejoice.
Leaning into what seems beyond endurance, is right where the bounty of Jesus becomes mighty. There is no place of pain that can remove you from the LOVE of Jesus. The love that says,
“I am with you always.” — Matthew 28:20
His victory was for us, and He lovingly offers this victory right now to anyone bearing the image of His Father. That’s you, me, and every human on earth.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” — Romans 8:17-18
The sun may rise again for me, but not for my Grandpa Buey. He rose to a new Son, the Son of life and salvation on that day we all gathered together as a family. The sky lit like flames as he went with Jesus, heading to the place prepared for him (John 14:2-3). His last breath escaped with the dawning of July 31st, 2020 as the world continued to turn and carry on without him. You may see another steady turn of the Earth, yet your loved one may not.
We are not promised tomorrow. We are not promised a pain-free life. We are promised fire and freedom, hurt and hope, suffering, and salvation.
May we not feed fear, but fuel the fire that burns off the hard seal of resin unleashing seeds of life. As the world turns in its anticipated manner I can be certain a new day has come. A new life is celebrated. A child is home with his Father.
I rejoice in the pain of losing the presence of Grandpa Buey. I will glory in my suffering as I know something good is being produced in me. The hurt is a reminder of how much love he brought into my life. As a little girl walking up the road hand in hand with her grandpa I asked him if he thought I was pretty. “Babe, you are more than pretty,” he said. I trusted him and felt comfort in a time when I wasn’t feeling like I was enough. His words let me know I am more than pretty. I’m enough.
I rejoice in the loss of my business due to COVID as it has afforded me an opportunity to write this for you.
I rejoice in not knowing how long labor is going to last or how many more waves of pain will overtake me, as I know something beautiful is on its way. I’ll groan and moan through the intensity and ask the Lord to hear my cries as high praise. Within the aches and thorns of life, God magnifies me.
I am learning to lean into Him and give glory even when it hurts. Our promise is that a day will come; a new day when every single tear will be wiped from our eyes as Earth is restored into Eden and our Savior makes the greatest exchanges (Revelation 21:4) hurt for whole, sorrow for joy, hungry for satiated, and death for life. 10,000 reasons for our hearts to cry, ”Bless You, Lord!”
Until then, I’ll miss you Grandpa, but I will also give thanks for all you taught me with my chin up, holding one square of toilet paper.
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