It’s the night before what would have been grandmother’s 88th birthday. I have a whole day planned for tomorrow to celebrate her– April 9th will now always be a day that I eat chinese food and go see a movie because I can’t tell you how many plates of sesame chicken I have eaten and how many movies I have seen afterwards with my mom and grandmother in my life. It was always our favorite thing to do. I have a voicemail from my last birthday of grandmother singing happy birthday to me– for some reason I felt the need to watch it ring knowing she would sing because she did it every year and I felt like “one day I’ll want that”. Don’t worry, I called her right back! I can’t wait to listen to it a million times tomorrow.
Grief has proven to be a tricky thing. One second I’m fine, just living my life and the next I’m crying for what seems no apparent reason until I realize it’s a Thursday, the moment I said goodbye or a Friday, the moment she went to be with Jesus forever. Grief is stirring up a lot of things for me as I am sure it does for us all. I keep thinking “I’m becoming a friend of grief” because I don’t believe it will actually ever go away. I think it’ll feel easier and less suffocating over time but I think it’ll be there until I myself get to be with Jesus for eternity.
The last few years have been pretty tough for me– moving to a new place in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Leaving a job that I absolutely loved much sooner than I anticipated, again worldwide pandemic. There have been some pretty intense moments for me in the last few years. Ones of questioning the Lord and all that I thought Him to be. My faith has felt so, so rocky and so uncertain. I used to teach my sweet Gap Year Participants all about the love of God because it was the one thing I felt so sure of in my life and then in the last 2 years it’s been the thing I have questioned the most. I think we all have these moments in faith where it feels fragile. Where life feels hard and the Lord feels really tough to find. And I know all the christian answers of “Just read a Psalm a day even if it’s all you can do” or “just write out a list of things you are thankful for” etc etc etc.
But I think sometimes we turn our faith into a big ol’ list of things to check off instead of just being where we are. Don’t get me wrong, I know the Lord doesn’t want me to stay in some dark place that feels far from Him, He wants me to be in full communion with Him. But sometimes it’s like David in the wilderness asking why God has left Him there to die.
And while I am still wrestling with this whole death and eternity thing I know one thing– when I was with my grandmother in her last moments there was no room for my doubts, fears and the darkness that comes with either. I have told everyone that those 12 hours I had with her and my mom in the hospital room felt like the most holy 12 hours of my life. I have seen the Lord work in a whole lot of different ways around the world. I have talked to a man who didn’t speak my language and I didn’t speak his in India. I have seen a woman who was wheelchair bound for years get up and walk. I have talked with people in Nepal who were hearing the Gospel for the first time in their entire lives. But I have never been more sure of the Lord in a moment than I did in that moment with my grandmother. I have never felt more peace. I have never felt more joy. I have never felt more assurance. And that all feels so strange to say when I lost one of the most important people in my life. How in the world could I feel so much joy in that moment? How could I feel so at peace?
Because this is the way it’s supposed to be– us with Jesus for eternity. And in that moment my grandmother was entering into the way it’s supposed to be. She was on the edge of eternity and then so peacefully was welcomed in.
In that moment I felt like it was one of those thin places– you know, where the glory of the Lord is so, so evident? Where heaven touches earth. Where my fears and doubts have no place because the assurance and certainty of God outshines the world for a minute.
I don’t know how death and eternity work but I know God works it all out for our good and His glory. All I know is it felt like a moment for me to realize that while my faith has felt shaky for the last few years I am a tree planted deep beside the waters.
CS Lewis says it like this: “you don’t know what you put your faith in until it becomes life or death to you” and I know that there will be more moments in my life where it feels really tough and God feels really hard to find. But I also know this moment is digging my roots even deeper just like all the moments that have come before this one to make sure I don’t blow over like a house built on the sand.
While I so deeply miss grandmother and the fact that I can’t pick up the phone and call her and that I won’t get an Easter card in the mail from her next week I am so, so thankful that the Lord uses even the toughest of moments for His glory. I’m thankful for a moment that helped me see that my house is built on the rock and that even though it may feel like it’s crumbling in the storms and the wind, it’s solid and He’s got me forever. All I have to do is trust Him.