Whenever the phone rings early in the morning, what follows is usually, never good. Yesterday morning was no different.
It seems like whenever bad news is coming, it’s almost as if the ring has a certain tone. I know that isn’t the case, but that unsettling premonition tells a story in all kinds of ways.
I picked up the phone not sure what to expect. I heard sniffling and tears. The pit in my stomach intensified. Something had happened. Something bad. As ready as I thought I was for what was to follow, I soon realized I was nowhere near prepared.
“He’s dead. My son is dead. They found him dead in his apartment.” We’re the words on the other end of the line. A few simple words but the weight they carried was great. One short sentence with such finality. It seemed surreal.
Shock and terror in the form of a gasp was my response. How is this happening? This can’t be real. But it was real.
We talked for a bit and pieces of information began to emerge. Pieces that almost seem meaningless because none of the details mattered. No amount of information was going to undo the reality behind her words.
I left to go be with her; where else could I be at that moment? But I was drowning in fear. There is no amount of experience that prepares you for moments like these. Years of ministry, bad news, losses, tragedy and I still struggle to find words. My inadequacies are overwhelming and crippling.
There are just no words that appropriately fit in times like these, and perhaps words should be left at the doorstep. So I sat and I listened. I heard my sweet sister’s broken heart as she poured out the agonizing details of this monumental loss.
She was awakened early that Sunday morning. The early morning silence was abruptly interrupted by a doorbell that echoed throughout the house. As she made her way down the stairs, thoughts of who could be at the house so early, raced through her mind. But once she opened it, she knew.
What stood at her doorstep was every parent’s worst fear. What was staring back at her was a mother’s nightmare dressed in uniform ready to deliver the worst message to be received. You can’t allow yourself to hear those words because in hearing them, there is a truth that lingers behind that you are unwilling to embrace.
Nonetheless, he had a job to do. He was the messenger. The one who brought the news that would forever alter her life. He had no idea the pain his words would bring. Oh sure, maybe he understood a little but he had no idea that as the words tumbled out of his mouth, her heart was being shredded and her life gutted.
I listened and listened more. And then we talked. We talked about the cruelties of this painful world. We talked about how we long for the day Christ would return. We talked about a mother’s heart. We talked about raising boys. We talked. We cried. We shared. We prayed.
And then, it happened. She looked up at me with her tear swollen eyes, a broken heart, and confused mind and I couldn’t get past how lovely she looked. She radiated. And then she spoke, “For some strange reason I have peace.” And in the same breath she said, “It’s Sunday and I want to go to church.”
My mind raced. To church? Seriously? No you need to cry more. You need vent. You’re in shock. You need to be home. You need to figure all the calls that need to be made and the details of this horrific event. You have to make plans and preparations. You have other sons. It’s okay to stay home, people will understand. God will understand.
She was deteremined. She was steadfast. She was eager. At the very worst moment of her life when everything around her was falling apart, she wanted to run to worship her God. She wanted to run into the arms of Jesus. She wanted to sit at the throne of the King of Kings. Everything in her was consumed with pain, suffering, loss and hurt but she wanted to be with the Father.
So many questions. So many why God thoughts looming, but her only desire was to be in a place with others worshipping the Lord. That was the priority. That was the precedence. That was her heart. She got it, above it all, her Savior.
She did go church that morning. She showed up. She ran to the only One worth running to because she understood that regardless of all that is surrounding her, she needed to remain centered in Him. If she was going to survive this vicious storm, her anchor had to rest in Him alone.
Oh how I long to be like my sweet friend. I want to run to a Jesus with all of have in every situation. I want to run to my Savior at those moments when tragedy and loss show-up at my doorstep uninvited. I want to remember that He works relentlessly when we praise and chase Him. I want to run to Him when there’s no clarity, and nothing makes sense. I want to run to Him when it hurts so bad I want to scream. I want that so desperately but in reality, I tend to do the opposite. I want to be like her.
God was present that morning. I witnessed His Spirit land on my broken friend. I saw what it looks like to be weighted down with sorrow and yet, continue moving toward Jesus.
Somehow, through the suffering, and pain He will triumph. When you chase after Jesus with fervor and refuse to allow your reality derail you from the cross, beauty will replace ashes. Joy will be found in our tears. Strength will be present in the sorrow. And peace will prevail in the pain.
As we inch closer and closer home, our suffering will only become greater. We can run in many different directions to many different places. Run to the cross with everything in you. It’s the place where hope, peace, comfort and strength spill over and flow everlasting.