Thursday, June 17, 2010

In Which The Inexplicable Is Explained to Me

Christine Besaw was a wingnut. She knew this because I would say it to her face. She'd bounce in to my 8th grade bible class and wouldn't know that I had seen her making goofy faces at my daughter Becca out in the hall.

"Good morning Mr. Booth," she'd say sweetly.

"Good morning Miss Besaw. You're a wingnut."

It turned out that Chrissy only had three more years to live.
God took her home at the tender age of seventeen on May 18, 2008. The car accident that took her life was just over two years ago now. We were all crushed. But God did so many amazing things through her death...too many to list here really. Her memorial service was just outstanding. I had one of those big, unforgettable experiences of Life at her service.

Job in the bible had always been a bit of an enigma to me. I had always been a little shocked and mystified by poor old Job. Here's a man who in one day lost all of his (substantial) riches...all his flocks, herds and servants...stolen or killed all in one day. And if that weren't enough for one man, he was told by the only surviving servant that all of his sons and daughters are also dead.

And Job's reaction? Extreme grief and, inexplicably, worship.

My whole life I had wondered about Job: how in the world does a man hear that kind of news, have the normal reactions of tearing his robes and shaving his head, but then proceed to fall to the ground in worship? That's crazy talk. God had just allowed (even 'suggested' the idea!) all of Job's children to die. How does Job worship a God who does that? "It makes no sense," I would say.

As I stood in the Besaw's church at Chrissy's memorial service, here is what I saw from my point of view: up on the screen are the words to the song, "Blessed Be Your Name," based on Job chapters 1&2. We are expected to sing these words; I of course had a huge lump in my throat and no voice:

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name
And blessed be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name

CHORUS:
Every blessing You pour out I'll
Turn back to praise
And when the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's "all as it should be"
Blessed be You name
And blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
I will bless Your name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name


Just below the screen is Pastor Rainville, singing these words, and in front of him is the pulpit. In front of the pulpit are some beautiful flowers, and in front of them is a casket with Chrissy's body inside. Then there are Chrissy's parents and here's the thing: Chrissy's mom's hands are up in the air. In worship. And she's singing with gusto:  

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name.


That image has been lodged in my brain for these two years:  Lyrics. Pastor. Pulpit. Flowers. Casket. Parents. Hands. Worship.

Fast forward to May 15, 2010. My own wife's memorial service. And after reading all of the above commentary, can you guess what song I chose to be sung? Yes, I chose, among others, "Blessed Be Your Name." 

Because I get it now.

I'm not sure I will be able to add much more to that. I just get it now.

I know with full assurance that Janie has not merely 'passed on' and is, vaguely, 'in a better place,' (as true as those terms may be). But in very specific terms she is with God in heaven. All on account of her trust in Jesus Christ, God-who-became-flesh-so-He-could-save-us. Her savior. Janie's suffering from cancer is over and her death is (for her) not a tragedy - it's a triumph! And sometimes when I let my imagination run I see images of her dancing and leaping for joy and being able to sing again. And I feel like dancing myself.

Now I'm not really a hand-raiser-while-singing kind of guy (sometimes I wish I was), but at her memorial I felt really glad to be singing those words:

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name.


Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name.


We all miss Janie real bad. So bad it hurts sometimes. But I'm hoping that while it feels 'tragic' for those of us who remain behind, even for us - even for us - her death will turn out to be, in our lives, a triumph. What I mean by that is this: God can do great things in a person's life when their heart is turned toward Him and is not at cross-purposes to what He is doing. If we can allow ourselves to get on board with His program, we could see amazing things come out of this tragedy. Our lives can look different and we can become better people. And by that I mean becoming people who are more like Jesus, which is God's goal in letting suffering into the lives of His people.

I like to think of Jesus headed out to welcome Janie, and he turns to ask who wants to go with him. And there's Christine Besaw, jumping up and down with a raised hand going, "ooh! ooh! Pick me! Pick me!" And I bet he did. And I bet their reunion was sweet. And mine will be too.

10 comments:

  1. Love this, Chris - how sweet and wonderful are the promises of God. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed! :)

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  2. tears and smiles, Chris. I had one of those big, unforgettable experiences of Life at Janie's service, too. Thanks for the tender, thoughtful, intentional way you, and the Browns, planned for that. I love you!

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  3. How often do we sing songs, not really thinking about what we are singing, but what a blessing to see God in these words. I pray that if I ever have to walk this path I will remember these words.

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  4. I can hear you singing with the reading of this post (I think you probably had to sing in order to get the lyrics right - am I correct in this?) Thank you so much for sharing it. I hope to always remember what you remembered here in this article - what you are teaching each one of us and in fact what Janie taught each one of us. Love and hugs - Kim and Nate

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  5. Thanks for your posts. The wit and humor and compassion that you write with makes it all so real. While I have no idea who you are or your wife, I attend Christ Chapel and was so touched by one of the posts that was shared with the congregation via email. I too, have been going through a cancer "ordeal" myself and see the toll it takes on each family memeber. Your perspective is refreshing and feuled by God's grace. Thanks for sharing. -Sarah

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  6. Blaine, Carol, Deb, Tim, Kim and Sarah (especially Sarah) thank you all so much for commenting.

    Kim, I don't sing so well...baritone so I can't hit tenor or bass notes....lame.....

    Sarah I wish there was some way I could say the right thing and make your cancer ordeal easier or even better - make it go away! I'll pray for you (I am even now as I am typing) and by the way, Christ chapel is near and dear in my heart since it began in my living room when I was 13 years old! I know things have changed a lot but I still love Christ Chapel, if only from a distance. Jesus is singing over YOU, Sarah. Zeph. 3:17.

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  7. Chris,
    I just thought I'd let you know that I am remembering the spirit of the weekend of Janie's services - the bright colors, the balloons, the cute flowers, the music, the ice cream, the chocolate, the LIFE in it all - and have carried it home into the every-day doldrums I tend to fall into.

    And it is from the encounter with The Spirit that was so real that weekend. He is always with me, I know, yet it takes a conscious choice to listen and be guided by Him.

    I picked up a little thing at a gift shop while I was there. You'd think it a little hokey, I bet, but I liked it - it says "Live a good life. And in the end it's not the years in a life, but the life in the years." We both know those for whom this can be said, and sadly the opposite can be true - long years, little life. I guess all this to say that the time I spent remembering Janie and being with you all and participating in the celebration has taught my heart to choose daily to say "Blessed be your Name!"

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  8. Heather Wells HeimJune 25, 2010 at 8:19 AM

    Lovely, Chris. I had a similar revelation at Janie's memorial service - singing this very song. I have to tell the story of Job at Sunday School in July and I am going to read this blog post to them during discussion. I am always reminded that sometimes the things that we wish wouldn't happen - in fact, the things we spend a great deal of energy praying and hoping and earnestly wishing would just go away and pass us by - are the things which allow us to experience joy in a new and more profound way. It is a mystery and we have to embrace it all - even when we would really like to push it from us. You are all in my thoughts and prayers - every day. xo

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  9. Mr. Booth,

    What a testimony to the power of the Gospel of Jesus! Oh, how much the World misses out on when they limit God. Isn’t it amazing what happens when we remove the human limitations that we have placed on God and see Him for how BIG He truly is. He is truly mighty to save and worthy of all our praise!

    Thank you for your testimony. I don’t even know you personally (I found your blog through Jonathan and Carol), but I feel so full and blessed. Blessings to you and your family.

    Cathryn

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