James wrote in 5:13, ‘Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing.’
Interesting. This subject matter was in my heart, from a slightly different angle, as I pondered a family reunion that was on the calendar to attend. My reflection was – I am not proud to say – of the, ‘O Lord help me survive this!’ genre. It’s not that I dislike family reunions – they are actually a great place to eat, sit, test your memory, and grow your listening skills. People want to chat. People want to share about their lives, their kids, their kids’ lives, their pets’ lives – a treasure trove of topics really. All the more frightening? Maybe.
I realized early on before the event, I was quivering with anticipation. And not the positive kind. In fact, quite the opposite. I hadn’t been scarred at the hands of any past reunion participants. I hadn’t been ruined by the inevitable T-shirt, attenders are asked to wear. So what was my problem?
Me. I was getting in the way of myself, and more importantly, in the way of God to work through me. I fully knew that this reunion would be attended by largely unchurched individuals. What an opportunity for Jesus! It was here when, through prayer, I asked God to move my heart & mind from dread to receptivity. To be open to interactions. To expect possibilities. My focus shifted from me, and onto God and others. Interesting. James did instruct us to pray when we are hurting!
After arriving, eating, finding my memory somewhat name retentive (I’m as surprised as you are!) and meeting other reunion-ites, my spirits lifted as I glimpsed no T-shirt tables! ‘Yes!’ I shouted to no one in particular – my newly bought reunion top still in place.
I then bumped into a cousin-in-law Heather, who greeted me with a hug and announced she had almost died last summer, to which I replied – me too. Heather embarked on her health journey which rivaled any heavyweight Hollywood movie by big name producers. I was indeed astonished that she had not died. Heather was moved to tears in the telling of the tale, now over a year in the past. She invited me to tell my story. And as did Heather, I wept as I recalled for her the account of my experience.
I must describe this as a deep connection. A sisterhood rising from the aftermath of hospitals, meds & recovery. Heather asked me an interesting question as I shared my story – did I have any death dreams? My answer – no. Hers – yes. She dreamt she had a tray of tea & cookies to serve to people just at the edge of her vision. As she approached this glowing yet vague crowd, an arm reached from the side and gently halted her explaining it wasn’t yet time. Go back, were her instructions. She obeyed and awoke in her hospital room. I asked her – do you suppose that was Heaven? She answered – absolutely not. When I probed further into her adamant answer, she qualified it by her surety she would not be given admittance into Heaven in the first place, so it simply couldn’t have been Heaven. Do you not know what I ‘was’? What I ‘did’? What I ‘believed’? – she asked. Do you not know my past?
As she shared the details of this ‘past’, I was stunned. Not by her tragic testimony but the belief, and further, the acceptance of her eternal lostness. Heather had, for a brief time, been a part of a church when her children were younger – wanting something more for them. And through this, she had come to an awareness of Him. And an awareness of her even larger sin.
I reflected back to her what I had heard to ensure I was clear: that she was dirty, damaged and destined to be unadmitt-able. That based on her past choices, she would be ever unworthy. That the God she believed in was not ALL powerful, just somewhat powerful being as He could not find His way to her around the sins. And that Christ died for SOME on the cross but not all. So His sacrifice clearly was not enough. Is this what I am hearing? – I asked.
Shaken she quietly offered – I hadn’t thought of it like that.
Do you suppose He did die for you after all? – I asked – For everyone? That NONE should perish? That His love is the power? That you – bad choices and all – are worthy?
Her answer – yes.
Tearfully she reached for me, and I to her over a rough and faded picnic table, as the Scavenger Hunt was announced. This is why I came this weekend – Heather declared. To which I replied – me too. I wept again knowing He had created and crafted this moment for both of us. To experience Him and each other in a synchronized dance of pain and the past. Of regrets and redemption. Of healing and Heaven.
Heather and I hugged many times over the weekend, and affirmed with each other that moments planned by our Father are around us and available, have power and promise, and are life changing.
We both left the reunion different. Secure. Peaceful.
Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing.
I’m still singing!