The following was actually written sometime ago and given to a person who had requested me to write such a piece, and who had planned to include it in a book, that, as far as I know, was never published. I came across it a few minutes ago as I was cleaning out old email files, and feel it might benefit someone today.
A Scrap of Wisdom
My mom was a quiet, unassuming, very intelligent woman, who accomplished second and third grade work in the same year, then when she was older, also passed through the seventh and eighth grade in one school year. She was a godly person and a pastor’s wife for as long as I can remember. Of a retired, unassuming nature, she was a behind the scenes person, so much so that I don’t recall her ever teaching or actually doing anything on the platform of our church. She was a great cook, whose pies were in wide demand at the elementary school I attended and at the dinners “on-the-grounds” at church fellowship meetings. My parents frequently kept ministers in our very modest home, and I recall her doing the personal laundry of evangelists who stayed with us.
I was the eldest of three, and when I was twelve years old, she died.
It was a frigid February night in Springfield, Mo. when my Aunt Bertie rousted us out of bed and took us to St. John’s hospital to see our mother. But she had died before we could get there, and on the cold, wide steps of that hospital in the pit of night, my dad said to his three shivering children, “Your mother is not here anymore, Kids. She has gone to be with Jesus.” Donna stamped her feet and yelled and we all cried, and throughout that desolate night Aunt Bertie and my dad did their best, despite their own heavy grief, to comfort us.
Mother had died in childbirth–actually a few hours after the baby was born–from a pulmonary embolism. Baby Terry was still living and the kind hospital staff came to our ragged huddle and asked if we would like to see our brother. Sure, we would, and so the nurses shuttled our icy speechless group into the neonatal ICU and let us look at our tiny brother who was even then clawing at life. A few hours later he also died.
It’s an awful thing for a child to lose a mother; somehow it just doesn’t compute, and were the world perfect, there’s no question but what all mothers would live to rear their young. But it’s far from a perfect place we inhabit, and so, helpless, having no vote, I endured that cutting blow.
I believe I adjusted alright, and a year later my dad married a fine woman who was good to my siblings and to me. And although I don’t dwell on the subject, or even mention it often, a hole dug into me that February night, and when I think closely of my mother, I discern that tender spot to be yet there.
One December night Steve, my eldest, was born; I was now a mother, myself, and as I held that fine child, I wished desperately to show him to my mother. I think it was at this point that I missed her more than I ever had. Look at his ears, Mom, his hair, his tiny fingers. Look, he’s perfect, I wanted to say, but that was not to be and I sorrowed for my loss.
Fast forward to today. Fast forward to this moment, the middle of the year 2008 as I grapple with the writing of a bit or two that could by some generous stretch be called wisdom.
Life is at once incomprehensibly glorious and insanely cruel. It is the mundane and the magnificent, the superb and the sorrowful, the divine and the sinful, the miserable and the marvelous, the ascendant and the dank of grave. Life is a daily presentation arriving naked and raw demanding our dress-up, our cloak, our face.
Within me and describing my complete being is the driving force that calls me to serve Jesus Christ. I have come to understand that He, with no hesitation and with no error, directs my way, orders my steps, charts my course. Thinking of that sterling truth eclipses my pitiful thoughts, smacks down any questions that might lunge my way, and whisks aside doubts that worry my head.
So God knew about my mother and about my early loss. Now whether He implicitly directed her death, or whether it was merely the result of mortality on a flawed planet (that’s my own opinion concerning the matter) God allowed her death. But because He orders my life and directs my steps I have been incredibly enriched through the years by people with whom I have come in contact.
I’ve sat–literally at times–at the feet of the most godly men on this planet. I’ve heard preaching that probably causes angels to swoon. Music of such lyrical perfection it must have originated in Heaven (I mean that and believe that) has anointed my ears and my brain and my heart. I’ve listened in private conversation to pointed instruction and such profound wisdom as should trace the ages. Around innumerable supper tables and breakfast bars, I’ve taken in penetrating and canny ideals and ideas. At conferences across our land–from fruited plains and oceans both–I’ve listened, mouth agape as brilliant and rare direction was charted.
So, my shred of wisdom is this: Relax in Jesus Christ. Understand that He knows the way you take, He fully comprehends you, sees absolutely every thing that is going on around you…and with no error, with no lapse, He directs your path.
You may be as successful as you have written in your most detailed plans; likely you will not be. You probably anticipate health and vigor into a rare old age; instead you may suffer sickness and disability. You may plan beautiful, godly, well-behaved children; perhaps one may stray, and the church may stay small, money is scarce, and sometimes…truth be known…you are afraid.
Relax. Jesus Christ knows you and has plotted your path.
Several years ago here in southern California in the autumn season came raging fires which burned through our splendid forests and our beautiful villages. The town in which I live was evacuated for eight days. Finally the fires were out, and I recall driving sadly through the denuded areas. Blackened ruins lay about; embers still smoldered.
And then it was spring, and I noticed what seemed to be unusually lush growth and spectacular wild flowers. It was as though thick carpets of flowers had somehow been spread over the land. As one drove over the mountain roads as far as could be seen, from deep canyons to the highest peaks, was a stunning show of vibrant flowers, vines and buds.
Why? An article in a local paper gave the answer. Deep within the ground are rare seeds that in ordinary seasons never sprout. Lacking favorable conditions they languish in the cool earth. They are buried so deeply and there is so much surface growth, they cannot emerge. But when forest fires rage, the mundane weed and common flower are burned and swept away. Finally, then, the scene is set; the stage is ready, the curtain is pulled, and the rare flower, feeling the urge of something which he in no way understands, yet obeys, pushes upward, twisting and turning, past the rock, the sand, the embers, until finally there emerges the bloom of a rare and beautiful flower.
God knows where we are. He knows the way we take, understands our history, our drives, dreams and ambition. He sees our battles, our losses, our hits and unfair breaks. But He is the planner, the map-maker, the navigator…He knows the way we take.