One of the units we're in for my Masters' work is dealing with the notion of evil in the world and the pain and suffering we can't explain. As part of the essay post assignments, we were to talk about events either recent or in the past that left us wondering where God was and questioning why such a bad thing happened to such a good person. I thought for a little bit and got busy doing something else to give myself time to reflect before I wrote. I started working on the church website and posted the ad for the upcoming Pastor Appreciation Day in two weeks and as I looked at the calendar it all hit me. Though the dates are different, we just had our Easter service two days ago. Last year's Easter service was one of, if not the toughest Easter service I've ever experienced. The Wednesday before last Easter, I conducted a funeral for one of my best friends, Carey Roberts. Easter was the 24th of last year and two weeks before it was Pastor Appreciation Day. We dedicated Rylee on that day as Pastor Dewain Joiner came and preached and performed the ceremony along with my dad. We had a wonderful day and we all went out to eat together. Nobody knew that would be the last Sunday Carey would ever be at church with us. He passed away on Saturday, April 16th. In less than a week, it will be a year since we lost Carey. A year since the church lost Carey. A year since his beautiful daughter lost her daddy. In about two weeks we'll have another Pastor Appreciation Day and it will inevitably be a reminder to me of the last service I ever shared with Carey. I miss him terribly.
So as I pondered about all of this, I decided to write to my class about Carey. And even though souls have been saved and touched and changed from Carey's impact and through generous donations we find ourselves even that much closer to the goal we shared of building a new sanctuary, I had no choice but to write what I truly felt then and still feel now. It just doesn't make sense. Yet I trust in God's sovereignty that He always knows best and He only does what is best for us.
As I thought of Carey, my mind drifted back to December of last year when one of the most dedicated saints of God I've ever met passed away. Angie Graham fought a hard battle with cancer and I recall her never complaining or having one wrong thing to say. She never doubted God and she never questioned Him. Her faith never wavered and through her testimony, souls have also been saved and touched. Three souls were saved and rededicated at her funeral. I recall with great joy her funeral. It was like a church service. The Spirit of God was there in a powerful way. I know Joey misses Angie. I know we do. Billie was just commenting to me the other day that last Easter, her and Angie went shopping to get their Easter outfit ready. They always shopped together and sometimes Angie got brave enough to let Billie style her hair. It's memories like these that linger for a lifetime. And each time you think of how good those times were, it's unavoidable . . . . you have to ask, "Why?"
As I sit here in the quiet, I must say many days and almost a year has passed since these two great saints went home to be with the Lord, and I have to say I have the same answer I did then . . . I don't know. I do know that they'll never be forgotten and while a part of our hearts will always be missing and broken from the losses, we take great joy in knowing that we will see them again. We take great joy in knowing that we can honor their memory by working for the things they loved and gave themselves to. We can take great joy in our memories as we should.
People are gifts. Life is a gift. We take them both for granted so often. We sometimes treat others as if there is a guarantee that we'll see them tomorrow, but life has very few, if any, guarantees. We often treat life as if it's a definite and we make plans, as we well should, with the expectancy that we'll fulfill them, but we never know. Life is precious. Take today and tell those that you love just how much they mean to you. We're not promised tomorrow. Let's take advantage of today while it's here.
Finally, I take great joy in Hebrews 11 for in this chapter the writer speaks of a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on. He speaks of the Old Testament saints that passed away and who are now cheering us on in this race called life. The writer of Hebrews along with all the other New Testament writers and saints have joined that great cloud and they are now cheering us on today. I can hear the Apostle Paul as he yells for us not to give up but to run the race with perseverance. I can hear Lazarus as he yells for us to stay the course for real life is found on the other side. And in the midst of the Biblical voices of history, I can hear Carey Roberts and Angie Graham cheering us on and celebrating with every new soul, with every new ministry, with ever new building, and with every new plan. I can hear them loud and clear, "Don't stop now! You're almost there!"
Yes we are. Yes we are. And though they are not here in the flesh to celebrate with us, they are just as much a part of us today as they ever have been before. It's memories and relationships like these that never fade.