Saturday, October 29, 2011
Last night I went to the funeral home. Reluctantly. Hesitantly.
I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t want to acknowledge the finality of a passing that affected me far more deeply than I expected.
Instead I wanted her to wag her finger and look me straight in the eye and say, “What is going on with you? Something is not right, little Missy.”
I wanted to hear her pray. Just one more time I wanted to be present when she presented herself in the throne room. And that is certainly what she did. She was assured of who she was in the kingdom, not because of her own accomplishments or achievements, but because of Jesus’. She approached the throne room with a holy audacity that I want to experience.
But this audacity was born not out of pride or arrogance, but from suffering. This boldness was born out of sheer desperation—an utter conviction that she had only one place to lean. And lean she did.
Her name was Barbara.
Years ago Barbara was in a tragic car accident. The emergency team who found her thought her to be dead before they even reached her. She lost half her face. Literally.
She had no cosmetic reconstruction. The extent of what would have been necessary was too dangerous. And there were just too many infections. Twelve years later when I met Barbara she peered at me with one eye. And that one eye saw deeply into me; I couldn’t hide much from Barbara. She would take her hands and hold my face and make me look at her, and she would ask me questions that I had to answer, if not to her than to myself.
Disease also plagued Barbara. And yet, she had a deep, deep sense of joy. Not the frivolity of happiness which is often transient and dependent on outward circumstances, but joy established in a stout and relentless conviction that God had a plan for her—and that it was a good plan.
Once while Barbara was in church some younger children were snickering and jeering at her grotesque face. Furiously the mother attempted to shush the children, but Barbara turned and told the young mother to bring those children to her. She put aside her own self-consciousness and insecurities (if she even really had any at this point) and bent down to be close to the children’s faces. She began to explain exactly what had happened to her. She didn’t mince words. She didn’t exaggerate. The children never ridiculed her again.
If anyone has learned that our position in Christ is not based on any temporary, earthly thing—physical appearance, social status, academic achievements—Barbara knew.
When you first met Barbara her face took you off guard and you would have to avert your eyes or perhaps lower your head. After you got to know her, heard her talk about Jesus and her faith, your respect for her exploded and you couldn’t do anything but look her right square in the face.
Barbara had more vision with one eye than I do at times with both. If anyone should have suffered with the malady of tunnel vision, then she should have. She did, but Jesus was fixed at the end of her tunnel.
I still have both eyes, yet often my vision is limited, hindered or stunted because I don’t have my eyes fixed. I allow too many relatively trivial and temporary things to impede my sight.
The receiving line at the funeral home was long and filled with animated whisperings of stories and exchanges about Barbara. I listened—absorbing and tucking away the tid-bits of information for a later time.
I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t want to lose this woman’s influence in my life. The duration of her influence had been too short. I had questions I still wanted to ask. Prayer requests I still wanted her to pray. I still wanted to be snapped by her quick wit and encouraged by her keen insight.
I realized how selfish my train of thought was rolling. Barbara is now whole in heaven. Whole. All that the accident tragically took has been replaced. All that the ravage of disease had eaten away has been restored.
The reality of heaven belongs to Barbara now. Her faith is now sight. Everything that she preached (And preached she did! She and Paul would have made a great team.) to everyone she encountered is now an actuality.
I walked through the receiving line, pausing only briefly before Barbara’s shell. I didn’t linger. There was no need. Three nights ago she entered the throne room of God and I have a feeling that is where she still is.
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