Something brought me to church on that week day. I now know it was the holy spirit calling me where I needed to be. I awkwardly dragged my eleven year old eye rolling girl, my bible and drove to church. The idea seemed silly as I belong to a large church with many members. It is unusual to be able to slip in and out without being seen by someone. I really didn’t want to see anyone, because I didn’t really know why I was there. I kept telling God that I could pray right where I was if that is what He was calling me to do. When we arrived, I thought, “it’s my lucky day! the sanctuary is dark, I can slip in and pray and slip out without being noticed.”
My heart was heavy. My dear friends had lost their youngest son. He had been attacked in a parking lot a few years prior…I’ll never forget that call. My friend Margie and I are mostly texting friends. When the phone rang in the middle of that night, her voice, the desperation and shock, “please pray for Stuart.” I could barely hear her. Dear Lord, I don’t know why this woman trust me with such an important prayer but do what only you can do. Stuart lived, however, he had severe brain damage and his life was altered tremendously. I remember Margie telling me he had to put post it notes all over his apartment to remind him of the most simple things like, brushing his teeth, combing his hair. Stuart was determined to be independent and live on his own despite his new disabilities.
Time went by and a few years later, Stuart was found in his apartment dead. He had suffered such severe brain injuries that he suffered from seizures and eventually the damage took him. I got a text, please pray, my baby died. My baby. Those words hit me like they would anyone. This can not be! What about his only brother, his mom and dad? How will they ever recover from this? How?
The next few months with my sweet friend were filled with talks of autopsy reports, cleaning out her son’s apartment, tying up his loose ends. And like every parent in this situation it feels wrong, “It’s not supposed to be that way”. The attack seemed to be forgotten and the attackers were unidentified and off free. It seemed they had gotten away with, well…murder. Not only did the family have their hearts broken from loosing their son, but also knowing he was murdered and their didn’t seem to be any interest or concern about who did it.
The Cole’s had fallen on some hard times in the years prior to Stuart’s death. They had owned a successful building company . Between the building recession and a physical injury they lost everything material that they had owned. Now they had lost a son, a brother.
These were the things on my heart as I walked into my church. The church where my heart was set free in Jesus name. I was desperate for peace, I was desparate for God. I didn’t realize it at the time, I thought God had sent me to pray for all who were attending the funeral, He was…and that included me.
I walked into the dark sanctuary. My eleven year old plopped in a pew with her ear phones and I-pod. I was not sure what to do, so I grabbed my bible walked up and down the isles and prayed. God show yourself, show your love, show your peace. Be with each person attending the funeral tomorrow. Up and down the isles my heart ached, tears streamed.
When I was out of words and had prayed over every inch that I could think of I sat in the dark, in a pew up front. Where are you God? Show yourself God. Show up tomorrow God. They need you God. Before I knew the lights in the sanctuary came on and the darkness in the room was no more. I turned around and there was a man I have been serving with in middle school ministry for a long time. I said something like, “don’t mind me, I’m just here praying.” He told me to take my time, there was a funeral in a couple of hours and they were setting set up. I sat there and watched a couple of flower arrangements get delivered. I’ll be honest, I was empty. I figured it was time for me and my daughter to go. I got up to leave and there was our churches former choir director. She is a dear friend of our family. I told her why I was there and she asked me if we had any music for tomorrow. She offered to play the following day for the funeral. What a blessing that was.
The choir director had arrived early and needed to practice for the funeral that was later that afternoon. I asked her if she minded if I just sat and listened. Of course she didn’t mind. I could feel God loving me through the music her graceful fingers tapped out. I felt God calling me to the altar as , Turn You Eyes upon Jesus was playing. I was in the corner of the sanctuary, no one could really see. I went up, kneeled and submitted my whole heart to God. In prayer I knew God had a message for me. ” Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in HIS wonderful face, and the things of this earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of HIS beauty and grace.” The words sound so cliché and without meaning until you live them and experience them. Until we hear and live out our lives and testimonies. As Carolyn pounded the song out on the piano my heart was filled with light the darkness faded. God was showing Himself alright…right then, right there, right into my spirit.
I believe God called me to my church that day to pray for others. I also believe that HE called me to church to let me know I was not alone. There is a body of Christ and I just have to be obedient and keep my eyes on Jesus. It’s okay to question, and hurt…but I must keep my eyes on HIM. When I do that I am free to love as Christ loved us. I love because HE loved me first. Let us receive that truth deep in our hearts today. ***********************************************************************
A note to my sweet sister in Christ Margie: I hope this blog brings you a bit of peace. I can not seem to find words powerful enough to express my love and prayers for you and your family. Margie, thank you for reaching out to me and reading devotions to me in the middle of your pain. There is nothing more powerful than loving someone in the middle of the deepest grief any of us can imagine. I give praise to our Father for bringing us together so many years ago. Connecting us through the spirit of Christ. I give praise for the others that God has placed to shine HIS light into your life. I do not know any of them personally but we are connected through the body of Christ.