Monday, July 11, 2011


In the last post I wrote about being aware of the moment - how important it is not to distract ourselves from what is happening. That if we are open, if we allow ourselves to Be where we are, change comes - we grow. Amy left a comment in which she quoted the phrase "Beauty for ashes."

It's from one of the world's most poetic and beautiful texts: the Bible - Isaiah 61. Expanded (and expurgated), it reads:
...the Lord hath sent me to bind up the comfort all that give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness...that He might be glorified.

I feel better about everything, ever, just from reading that.

As a Christian, one of the interesting - and sometimes difficult - parts of my life is that it is always reflecting God. Even when I don't talk about it (maybe especially when I don't talk about it), even when in my frailty I do a pretty damn poor job of it, I am here to represent Jesus.

There are lots of signposts in the Bible. There is the bit about going into all the world to preach, and there is the bit about forsaking your family and everything you have to follow Christ. Well, the Bible also says that we're all given different gifts, different talents.

It naturally follows that different parts will resonate with different people. Here are the bits I like the best:

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." I've been doing this all my life. Living HUGE. Chopping wood? Put your goggles on, baby, because the chips will be a-flyin'. Knitting? Hold onto your hats, people, my needles are smoking and I am churning out cables, colours, socks, lace, you name it. Cannonballs? That pool is going to be EMPTY, I tell you. Better move your towel.

And then there's the quote above, another favourite of mine, from Isaiah. "The Lord hath sent me to bind up the comfort all that mourn..." Can I claim that part? I mean, I'm not a prophet, and I live thousands of years after the man who wrote this passage, and I have nothing to do with Zion, as such, but....this speaks to me.

"Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." This one is tricky. Ten little one-syllable words, When you think that one through, right through to all the possibilities, it's actually a little scary. Thing is, in this life bad things happen. Where does my help come from? Well, I choose to call on the Prime Mover, the Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth, who is more interested and invested in me than I have even the slightest idea. That makes me feel okay about the 'trusting' part.

A few days ago there was another of last year's posts to read - fourth from the end. In this post Sandy wrote about going to the school she taught at, to speak to the students during a chapel (it's a Christian school).

I wanted to go to the students and tell them that God is listening.
I wanted them to know that He is working.
I wanted them to see that I am alive, and to tell them that my heart is being healed, and renewed, and changed, and restored.

And that my body still needs some work.

I wanted them to know that whatever happens to me, God is still GOOD.
I needed to tell them that God is GOOD no matter what. Even if my body dies.

"Even if my body dies."

Do you know what's cool about this? And what's important about this? It occurred to me today that one thing leads from another. The amazing and wonderful and intense things that happened during Sandy's last year - how fantastic it all was, how lifechanging - those things came from the spirit realm. Was her death any more significant than anyone else's? In the big picture....No, probably not. Though, to quote again, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." To God - yeah, it was significant. She was precious to Him and He valued her death as He valued her earthly life, and as He values - indeed bought at considerable expense - her afterlife.

The thing about Sandy's death, and the ripple effect it's had on me and on others, is that all the events leading up to it were made possible by spiritual openness. On her part, on my part, on the part of others who were involved.

Her openness to the end of her life, her openness to the will of her God, her trust in His ultimate goodness, created a passage through which incredible power flowed. People saw it, were touched by it.

Even you, reading this blog over the last year, have been touched by it.

I love how, though months have gone by, that power hasn't stopped flowing. The lessons just keep coming my way - little epiphanies keep happening, little bits of my life keep falling into place. The quote from Isaiah, which I've had in my memory for so long that I don't remember not knowing it, has come back to me via my sister-in-law, through a comment on the internet. How weird is that?

And now I'll put those two quotes together.

The Lord has sent me to comfort those who mourn, with all my might, that He might be glorified.

"And I did that!" I marvel to myself. Yes, with all my might. The way I do everything. The way God made me.

You know what else I love about this? The "glorified" bit at the end doesn't have any directive attached to it. Do you notice the passive voice? The passage could read "The Lord has sent me to comfort those who mourn, and to glorify Him while doing it." But it doesn't say that. It just says to bind up the brokenhearted, comfort those who mourn. And He will be glorified.

Because I'm just here to reflect. I'll be open in spirit, I'll do what I can for people with all my might, and He'll make sure that what needs to happen, happens. It's such a relief not to be in charge.

All this time, for the last year and a half, I thought I was mourning. And I was - I am - but I'm also learning. And it turns out that all along, important bits of theology, spirituality, and guidance for my life have been waiting to be revealed.

Looking ahead, I am excited about life for the first time since Sandy died. Not excited about an event, a concrete time or thing that I know to expect, but excited about the big impulsive unknowingness of it all - happy about the way God's plan keeps turning out to be better than my plan.

I like that about Him.


Carolyn said...

A great post! With grammar analysis, even. Good grammar analysis of Scripture is a wonderful thing to see in a blog.

Gwen said...

Oh, how much Sandy would like this post! I do like, about God, that He's so good at multi-tasking. I mean, He has a specific, custom-designed purpose for everyone affected by Sandy's life and death. It was exactly the right thing for her. It was exactly the right thing for her family. It was exactly the right thing for you.

Somehow God does all things for our benefit, and He can design one single event to be exactly the right thing for everyone involved. Trippy.

Dave Hingsburger said...

I was having a conversation with someone about the death of a mutual friend. I said something like, 'I learned so much during the last few months of her life.' The person I was talking to was offended by what I had said. She thought that I was using the tragedy of loss for my own benefit. I let it go. It wasn't the time for debate. I just apologized. But, if you are going to live a real life, shouldn't you be paying attention to it - good, bad, tragic? Isn't it ALL instructive in some way. If somenoe lives a life with purpose, won't they have a death with meaning? I have learned, though, to keep my big mouth shut sometimes!

I love your blogs on Sandy's life because it allows us into your reflection and into her life at the same time. Purposeful life, meaningful death, I'd guess that might even be a goal.