Friends, I have been writing on this post since Sunday. I have written and re-written, and removed paragraphs, and put in new ones. Why? I usually just sit down to write and the things I want to say come easily. In this instance, I have agonized over the words. I want to explain the way I feel, but I keep second guessing myself…wondering if I am explaining too much, or if I’m not being clear at all. This post has come from deep inside and it’s important to me that it be exactly as I hear it in my heart. So, please be forgiving if something strikes you the wrong way. Know that it is only my intention to say how I feel. I speak for myself, and even though Joy and I discussed this, I do not claim to speak for her- even though she probably would totally agree. Cause, I AM her big sister, after all!
This week there has been some sad news in our town, and in our church. Some dear friends who we have known since childhood, found that their son had passed away during the night. I can not imagine what you do when you go through something so devastating. I can not imagine their pain.
There was a time, many years ago, a group of us young married women..still girl’s really… who were members at SBC, were having babies just as quick as we could. First one, then another, then another. This went on for quite a few years…until we all came to our senses! We produced a wonderful group of boys who were friends from their first Sunday in the nursery.
I can’t even remember who came first, and I sure hope I do not leave any out, but there was my Alex, Clarke, Jud, Harrison, Adam , Josh, Tyler, my Ian, Justin, Reid, Chase, Russ, and these were just the boys that I can recall.
They went to several different schools and had other friends, but they all came together again on Sunday’s and the bonds were still there. They were in Sunday School, choir, Discipleship, Camp Thunder, R.A.’s, and summer programs together. They all had parts in our Living Christmas Tree for many years. Then, they went their own ways…as all young men should do. And now, they are scattered all around. Some are married and have started their families..raising little boys and girls themselves. Some are still working on their careers. Some live and work in other cities. Some have gone to school and have come home to Dothan Some have come home to SBC and worship in the church they grew up in. Others are in Dothan and worship elsewhere. And, two are in Heaven. Adam went to Heaven when he was about 16…injured in a car accident. And, now Harrison has joined him there.
It is hard, sometimes, to remember the things you know are true when something comes along to shake your life and change your world. And usually, it comes from out of the blue. I think it can be such a shock to us, that we tend to forget the things we know. At these moments, there is only us and the pain and the unrealness of the situation. After all, we are only human. We know that God will uphold us. We know that He will comfort us. We know that he will walk with us. We know His promises are true. We may feel forsaken…even though we know He will never forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:6) We wonder how we will live and go on and plan a funeral and get up the next day, and the next, and the next. How will we care for the ill family member, day after day and week after week and month after month and year after year? We may feel lost and alone…but He has promised to be our strength. (Jeremiah 29:11) And, He keeps all His promises. We may think that we will never feel happiness or excitement or joy ever again…but it is He who will comfort us. ( Isaiah 51:12) And the time will come, amidst the crying and unbelief and sadness, and pleading, when we realize that we are doing what needs to be done. We are taking care of the things we need to. We are still sad and may need to cry…that’s just what we do… that will last for a while. And for each of us, it is different. But, we are getting a boost from somewhere. We are amazed at ourselves. We didn’t think we could cope…but we are. And, then…we remember…we remember what He promised us, “I will NEVER leave you. I will be with you WHEREVER you go.” Deuteronomy 31:6 Even to bury your child. Even to bury your Mother or Father. Even to bury a spouse. Even to deal with a child’s devastating illness…which, in reality, takes his life, too. It may an illness for you or a spouse or a parent. You may even have to care for someone who doesn’t even remember who you are. Maybe you lose all your worldly possessions due to flood or fire or whatever . Whatever comes to disturb our safe and secure world, He walks beside us there. We do what we have to do. And, we thank Him for holding us up and giving us strength. We forget again, and sink into despair…but, He’s right there…walking us through it…holding our hand…drying our tears.
There are other ways He sends comfort to us. We may read something….a poem, a quote, or an article that has all the words we need to hear. Soon after her death, I was looking through some of the journals that Mom kept. I came across a poem that she had cut out of a book or a magazine and taped into a journal. Beautiful and touching words about losing someone we hold dear. Exactly what I needed to hear. We may hear someone say something that resonates with us. Perhaps we hear something on the radio or TV. We will ‘accidentally’ come across scripture that God must have put in the Bible just for us. And, He did. Because He knew we were going to need it. He knew the exact day and time we were going to need it. So, He made sure we would see it. And, we did. If God wants to send us a message, He will. And we WILL get it.
Corrie Ten Boom once said:
“Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”
And, it is true. You may not have experienced it yet, but you will. Many have experienced sadness and grief and shock in their lives. And, to those who know Jesus as their Savior, He has given sweet comfort and peace. I have felt it. I can testify that it is true. I know what peace and comfort only He can provide. You have probably felt it, too. And, if you are like me…you feel compelled to reach out to others who are hurting and tell them what you have discovered through your experience. For along with His comfort and sweet peace, He has given us a task. . He says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “ All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” We are commanded to do this…but we would anyway. Because, when you know what He can do, and what He has done for you….you want those you care about that are hurting to know about it, too. And so you go and remind them of what they already know…but they need to be reminded…just as you did. Friend helping friend…helping friend.
BLEST BE THE TIE THAT BINDS Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love; The fellowship of kindred minds Is like to that above. Before our Father’s throne We pour our ardent prayers; Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one Our comforts and our cares. We share each other’s woes, Our mutual burdens bear; And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear. When we asunder part, It gives us inward pain; But we shall still be joined in heart, And hope to meet again. This glorious hope revives Our courage by the way; While each in expectation lives, And longs to see the day. From sorrow, toil and pain, And sin, we shall be free, And perfect love and friendship reign Through all eternity. lyrics…John Fawcett
I was not able to be in church last Sunday, but Joy said the sadness and shock of this young man’s death could be felt everywhere. And, then she said something else, which has resonated with me. A core group of us, who call SBC our church home, our church family, have been in this church since we were young ourselves. Joy and I started there while we were in grade school. So, the adults who were our teachers, had children who were our friends. We developed friendships, strong friendships, and grew up, and had children of our own. We, then were the teachers, and our teachers became the grandparents…and some…great-grandparents. And, now we, though many of us still teach, we are also becoming the grandparents. And our children are becoming the teachers. And so it goes. Now, isn’t that a beautiful thing? Just the way that God intended a family to operate. Titus 2:3-5 says that “the older women are to teach the younger women.” Our hearts are invested in these families. We care, because when something bad happens…it effects the people who loved and nurtured us, and the people we loved and nurtured. And, the ones who are to come. It is our friends, and our parent’s friends, and our children’s friends. And it is all because we are a family…a church family…the family of God.
The funeral is coming, and we will gather to mourn and love and pray together. Friends who live elsewhere will arrive, and there will be hugs and slaps on the back because we have missed them and are glad to see them. And, then, we will remember together. And, we will cry together. And, yes, we will worship and praise our God together. Because in the midst of this horrible sadness, we are not defeated. Because we know:
Thank you for this, Tonja. Yes, "Blest Be the Tie that Binds"! JD and I love Southside, too, and are so saddened for the loss this sweet family is experiencing. I'm glad you are there to be part of their support team. We will certainly keep sending up prayers for them from Mobile. Love you!
Oh Mrs. Tonja, this is beautiful!!!! I cried and cried because us girls were all best buddies as well as best buddies with this particular group of boys. We were all so close. As you said, in time, we all went our separate ways, but it's like no time has elapsed each time we do run across each other or something happens in the others life. It's amazing how SBC is that one constant that binds us all together. After much searching and praying, God has led me and my husband and our precious Banks back to SBC, and I pray everyday that he will have amazing friendships like I did. It is an awesome thought, and the one that keeps me seeing the good in this difficult time, that we will all rejoice together again in Heaven and even more beautifully, we will be doing it at the feet of The One who brought us all together in the beginning.
I love you all,
Jessica Leverette Nichols
Well said Tonja -thank you
Written just as many of us needed to hear! I'm so sorry…..loss is never easy, but thankfully we grieve as those who have hope!
My heart goes out to the grieving family and the members of your church who are also deeply affected by this sad news. Keeping you all in my prayers. ((HUGS))
If you would like a handkerchief mailed to his mother please let me know.
Tonja, I have no words to express how meaningful and inspiring this post was to me. Thank you for sharing so beautifully and eloquently your innermost thoughts, undying faith, and love for your church family … in words that came straight from your heart.
I will remember you and your friends in my prayers. May God lift you up and bless you all with strength and comfort in the coming days.