– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
18 years ago today, God transformed the lives of everyone in our family as my brother Dan's earthly suffering ended and he went to heaven. I can still sit here and see him, and hear him, as plain as if it was 18 years ago. I miss him, I miss the part of me that existed in our relationship. His not being here can still cause pain, it seems almost foolish after 18 years but I still feel it. I still spend time reflecting back on that day when heaven and Gods presence moved closer in my life. I had always been unsure that God was right there before then, but after that day I knew He was. Before that day I thought little about what Gods purpose for my life and all about my own plans. After that day His purpose is the focus of my daily morning prayers and while I am less than perfect at following Him, it is my hearts deepest desire. So there is fleshly part of me that says that was a bad day, that it was day that brought pain. But my heart knows that it was one that hurt, and was good in Gods hands, as it was a day of transformation.
The great lesson for me through the process has been that of seeing Gods goodness not as His protection from pain but rather His presence in the midst of it. I believe as a church we spend to much time focused on eliminating pain instead of embracing the pain God allows as a refining fire in our lives. We all know pain, loss, abuse, confusion, fear, and we do not like feeling those things. Much of our lives are spent avoiding, and directing ourselves away from the pain or possibility of pain we may feel. We tend to read books and love sermons that talk about eliminating pain and how that is life, and life lived victoriously. We even will sin to keep the pain at bay. Yet none of that can really stave off the pain that living life brings, it is inevitable.
We must come to a place in our relationship with God to understand that pain will come and He has given us tools to walk through it, and those tools will help be better built to grow closer to Him at the end of it. I pray it does not sound like I am trivializing anyones pain, I am not, there are many who suffer greatly, for very long periods of time, and it is hard. I also am not so twisted in my mind to desire pain. But, I know that it will come and I know God is there in it, waiting with open arms for me to jump into his lap and soak up His love for me. So as I reflect on 18 years with out my brother, I think of my loss and my pain, but I also feel how God is so near in the midst of it... that is life lived victoriously.
Thank you God for Dan, and the 21 years of life and his deaths impact on me. Thank you God for the pain I have felt and still at times feel, that pulls me away from myself and into your wonderful waiting arms. Hug Dan for me, tell Him I will be there some day soon, and if your willing God, I will be bringing an army to meet him!