“We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self.
It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome,
we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit,
that it is God, the indivisible.
And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world,
yet undisturbed by its multiplicity,
for our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.”
One year ago yesterday on March 19th, my dad lost his battle with cancer.
At the time, the last thing I was thinking about was what all was going on around me
let alone the significance of dates on a calendar.
I was just doing good by planning a funeral and dealing with the remnants of a lost life…
I was simply oblivious to everything else.
Moments of such loss tend to do that to us…
We freeze as if caught in a glitch of both space and time…
we’re standing still but the world, and everything else around us is still
spinning and moving.
This year as March 19th arrived on the calendar, with me marking both it’s coming and going
with a bit of inward melancholy, I couldn’t help but notice that throughout the entire day
I had been subtly reminded that March 19th was not just a day marking a sad milestone in my
small corner of the world, it also just so happened to be the day that the Church remembers
St Joseph…the earthly father of Jesus.
As in the feast day of St. Joseph
As in a ‘dad’ sort of day.
And like I’ve said before, I’m not one for the notion of coincidence as I am more about the moving
of the Spirit. Because with God, there is no such thing as coincidence…
just the guidance offered by the third member of the Trinity.
And so as I found myself fondly remembering my own dad, the man who adopted me when I was but
a few months old, for both good and bad, who stood watch over me most of my life while that role
was reversed during the last 5 years of his life…
I now recall the one who stood watch over a growing God made man-child …
a boy who needed the perfect earthly father to guide him as He prepared to lead us all
to our own Salvation…
So whereas I was feeling glum as I moved throughout my day, I found my thoughts being gently
teased outward as I have been reminded that God is always greater, ever mindful and deeply full
of thought for each and every one of us in our ups as well as downs…
no detail is too small, no event too insignificant that He is not everpresent.
“He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp.
Dostoevsky said once,
‘There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings’.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
It was just little over a week ago that I shared the latest news on our
friend Nabeel Qureshi and his fight against the aggressive form of stomach
cancer that was gaining an upper hand.
Sadly Nabeel’s battle ended Saturday.
Nabeel was only 34 years old.
A loving husband and father, a Christian convert from Islam,
as well as an ardent Christian Apologist.
It was almost exactly a year ago that I first stumbled upon Nabeel and his no holds
barred, unapologetic, unwavering proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.
At the time I found Nabeel, I was writing a brief post about the Trinity, and during my gathering of information, I found a video clip of a presentation Nabeel had delivered at Wayne St. University about the Oneness, or Tawhid, of God.
Our friend the good Scottish pastor David Robertson offered this about Nabeel
in his Monday posting of the Wee Flea…
Possibly the most well known Muslim convert to Christianity, Nabeel Quershi has died aged 34 after a long battle with cancer. You can read his story here – with some wonderful interviews – https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2017/09/16/nabeel-qureshi-1983-2017/
“In the past few days my spirits have soared and sank as I pursue the Lord’s will and consider what the future might look like, but never once have I doubted this: that Jesus is Lord, His blood has paid my ransom, and by His wounds I am healed. I have firm faith that my soul is saved by the grace and mercy of the Triune God, and not by any accomplishment or merit of my own. I am so thankful that I am a child of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and sealed in the Spirit. No, in the midst of the storm, I do not have to worry about my salvation, and for that I praise you, God. . . .”
I have been nearly consumed these last few months with my own small world’s
battle with both passings and death…all up close and quite personal.
And I doubt that any of us ever grow immune to our own body’s and
spirit’s reactions to such traumatic events.
As countless numbers of books have long been written regarding the
stages and emotions associated with both loss and grief.
Even watching last night’s airing of America’s Got Talent (no football was on),
I was reminded of our constant living balance with grief.
The 13 year old singing contestant Evie Clair, from a tiny town in Arizona,
whose father had been battling stomach cancer throughout most the show’s season….
He was a dad who had been in attendance throughout his daughter’s performances and
was noticeably absent the past two weeks.
Her dad actually lost his battle about the same time Nabeel had lost his.
Yet this brave little girl continued on with her final performance Tuesday night,
as I’m certain her father had encouraged her to do no matter what his
outcome may be.
So when I saw Nabeel’s final video posting from his hospital bed, as he shared
that his doctors had finally called off all treatment as now palliative care
was being called in, Nabeel still spoke of healing and miracles.
Now the smug and jaded among us, those non believers,
those cynical ones who would see and hear a dying man
speaking of miracles and healing from his death bed…
or who would watch a grieving 13 year old young girl sing a song of hope while
standing in the face of death all in front of millions of viewers, would write such
off as merely being pitiful, misguided, lost or even foolish.
Yet as I mulled over Nabeel’s last video clip…
as I wrestled with the sorrow and sadness of his image in his hospital bed…
as I heard him wrestle with a battle now seemingly ending despite
his best efforts to battle on….
as I turned it and his words over and over in my mind—
those words of a continued and constant prayer and belief in healings and miracles…
I had a shift of thinking.
We earthbound pray for earthly miracles.
We long for these miracles.
We don’t want those we know and love to hurt, to suffer or to leave us here–alone.
We can’t bear imagining a life without those we love and cherish.
Our roles no longer being what they were.
Our earthly identities now shifted and skewed.
It is often more than any of us can bear….
And so we pray, we pray earnestly and fervently…
we implore, we plead, we cry and we beg….
Yet when all of that energy and hopefulness is still met by suffering and or Death,
we do one of two things…
we accept or we reject…
And if we opt for rejecting…we are most often consumed by anger and rage at
this unseen God who we have been imploring and pleading with…..
But what if, what if the prayers of the healing and of the miracles are actually
more than asking for a loved one to remain earth bound…
What if our prayers are really for the healing and the miracle of being Heaven bound?
That our prayers for miraculous healing are really not for remaining here but rather
for those we love to be prayed Homeward…..
in that the passing away on Earth is really the miracle of moving forward?
I think they call that a paradigm shift….
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.