Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Little Casket & Big Questions

It hasn't been the best of weeks. I've had a lot on my mind, but have resisted writing out of respect for some boundaries, and due in large part to a general weariness.

Amy and I have both been battling this on again off again bronchial infection, and the medications that are now being heaped upon us to try to kill this little bug before it kills us. A lot of folks in San Antonio are sick with the same thing.

In the interim, I spent one morning this week standing in a hazy gray drizzle amid a cemetery crowded with loving mourners all eying a tiny casket.

The granddaughter of a friend, born premature with a mountain of health problems who was initially not expected to "live through the night," fought a valiant battle swathed in prayer for two months, and then, in His inexplicable way, God said it was time for her to come home to Him.

So I stood there staring at the casket.

There were tears and words and hugs and my thoughts drifted between young lives lost and young lives wasted.

I wanted to ask God about both.

I don't have to scratch deep into my memory to dredge up the reality of last month when the troubled 19 year old son of our friends, opted to end his personal torment. The trigger he pulled triggered a tsunami of misery the ripples of which continue to expand today, and will for a long time to come.

We did our best to help that family then, I spoke words at the funeral, and Amy sang.
We are staying in touch and trying to guide them in their grief.

And I remember staring at that young man's casket too while crying out to God to help me make sense of the senseless.

For close to two years we've opened our home to people who've had life rush in on or atop them in a number of ways and found themselves in a need of stable ground. We have little to offer: safe haven, time, a place to sleep, food, and advice when asked for it. Our friend Katy at dubbed it our "Upper Room" ministry.

Since we've opened our house in this way, we haven't "solved" anyone's least not completely. However I think God has used us exactly as He intended and the people who've passed through here are seemingly all doing better than when they arrived.

Our latest resident, "Shell," who's been with us for three or four months, has provided a new set of challenges. She's got more than her barely 20 years of living in her soul. A lot of anger, resentment, and unhealthy defense mechanisms honed from years of dealing with foster care systems, institutionalized settings, as well as disheveled time periods carving out a daily existence - not a life - on the streets .

Suffice it to say, life with Shell has not been easy and the time is rapidly approaching when Shell will have to choose, as we all do, who she is going to be...

I've been praying to God for wisdom and discernment as I hope to deal with her in a frank and loving manner.

And thus my thoughts have been dominated by young lives on a dangerous cusp, young lives taken, and little lives lost.

Yet in the drizzle at a forlorn cemetery I gazed upon that tiny ivory casket which held a cherished child taken so soon...and I was comforted by words written in an email from the child's mother after her daughter had died.

She wrote that as it became apparent that her baby's valiant struggle to gain a grip on life on this earth was faltering, the devout Catholic family called in a priest. The priest was ill, battling what he assumed was the same bug Amy and I have been trying to fight off.

Despite how poorly he felt, he went to the hospital to be with a little two month old girl in the last minutes of a life than can be counted in mere hours. He comforted the family, blessed the child...and soon afterwards collapsed.

Apparently his blood sugar was at a level that doctors said that had he collapsed at home, he most certainly would have died himself.

But he wasn't at home...he was in a hospital...because he felt it was his duty to do God's work for a tiny little girl who would never know life outside of a hospital.

Because of that, doctors and nurses were able to quickly treat that priest.

He is alive thanks in large part to a child who is not.

Could it be that God's purpose for that little girl's fragile fragment of a life was to save the life of another?

I don't know the answer.

I don't have all the answers for Shell either...

But I have realized again that I must trust in God...and pray that I am always open to being used for His purposes.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. - Psalm 37:5-6