I also wanted to share what Aaron said last Saturday, a special tribute to his dad!
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way my father told his stories. They came up in casual conversation, and no matter how many times he told them, something always seemed to change each time. The was the one about the 7 Great Danes (or St. Bernards, depending on the day) he encountered as a baby in a stroller, and the one about swimming with Frank Sinatra, and the one about freeing everyone from a day of school with some school bus mischief. There was even one about his days as a self-described professional wrestler, where I am told he was called “The Can-Opener.” The level of absurdity varied depending on the circumstance, but I think that’s the way dads’ stories are supposed to be though…just a little bit fantastic, a little bit farfetched…just enough to make them seem larger than life.
As much as I loved them, however, these are not the stories I’m going to remember my dad for, because the story he lived out over the last two years was so much bigger, so much more real, yet so much more unbelievable at the same time. Most of you saw it play out. You saw him face things with a God-given courage that I’m still not sure I understand. You saw him raise his hands and praise our Heavenly Father in his greatest times of sorrow, despair, and uncertainty. You saw him smile even when the pain was greater than we could imagine. You saw him live out the story God already knew the ending to.
I shared a story on the blog last Father’s day, early on in this journey, from the gospel of Matthew. It’s set right after the last supper, and right before the guards come for Jesus. It read like this: Jesus goes with his disciples the night before his crucifixion to the garden of Gesthemane to pray to his Father in heaven, and as he walks with Peter, James, and John, he tells them that his "soul feels sorrowful" (Mtw. 26:37-38). When he falls before the Lord in prayer, we see, not a joyful exultation, but a prayer that we, as beings of the flesh, can understand more than any other. Jesus knows what is about to come for him: the pain, the anguish, the weight of the world's sin upon his holy shoulders. He calls to his Father, broken, and afraid, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." The Bible tells us that he said this prayer three times. (Mtw. 26:39, 42, 44).
This was a prayer I came to know well in the times when I could not understand the purpose of everything the Lord had laid out before us. It was a prayer that reconciled my desires and the will of God. I saw my Savior, down on his knees, asking for another way...but only if his Father in Heaven desired it.
It took a long time to find an answer to my questions, sometimes. I could not always understand the purpose of it all, why my God of Miracles did not do something unexplainable in the midst of the storm. It wasn’t until the end of this battle that it all started to make sense, as I looked back at those words of Christ, and realized that His story didn’t stop there in the garden.
He went on to suffer so that we might find salvation from this world. He endured pain so that so many other people would be free from bondage and sin. Because God’s will prevailed through one man’s suffering, an eternity was added unto those who seek Him fervently through His Son.
And then I realized that so many people can be blessed, and changed, and grown when God calls someone worthy of suffering for His glory. I can’t imagine a better way for someone to end their story, a better way than the way my father ended his. You see, as we get to experience the love of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit, as we on earth seek him to eternity, my father gets to experience the better part of this promise. He is in Heaven, The Kingdom of God, standing in the glory of his Lord and Savior. For what can we mourn? God will always give us the perfect measure of strength and grace to endure, and with that promise, as much as we grieve for the loss of such an incredible person, we can rest assured that we walk more closely with our Father now than ever before.
I want to share a line from a song that stayed on my mind often as I thought of my Dad throughout his battle.. It says, “You give me hope, in spite of everything; you showed me love, even with so much pain.”
Dad, if you’re listening, and if you’re not too busy reveling in Heavenly glory, I want you to know that, even though I never shared this with you, it was something I always admired. The love you could show, the man you were. I love you, dad.
The Bible says in 1 Peter, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Dad sees, now. And what a sight it must be.