For the past few months, our staff has encountered some of the most unbelievably gut-wrenching suffering that I have ever experienced. Even though not all of us have directly suffered, we have all borne the burdens as much as a family as possible.
On May 13th, 2016, Blake officiated his older brother’s funeral service. Even through all the tears and writhing internal pain, he stood in front of a multitude of people, and proclaimed the goodness of God the Father. I sat a few rows back from the stage and I was so enamored by the grace and providence of the Lord as I listened to Blake. And as I sat in the splendor of grace, all I wanted to do was share those words with everyone who could not be there. What Blake said is the Lord’s perfectly scripted letter to us and everyone else in this specific hard season. This is the manuscript from his sermon:
So many good stories and good times to reflect upon of my brother, Keith. I’m so grateful for those things and so grateful for the time we had with him. Even the weekend before he collapsed, he was here for my dad’s birthday and he stayed at my house and we got to go to Aggie baseball games and share meals and drinks and have fun all together and that time was so incredibly sweet; because just five days later, he would pass. What a sweet gift from the Lord to have that time.
And even as hard as that week was in the hospital in New Orleans, it was a gift from God. And the fact that these guys here in the Navy did CPR on him for an hour and twenty minutes…you don’t do that; you just don’t do that. But their friendship and love for Keith was so deep that the hour and twenty minutes wasn’t futile, it was worth it.
That week was really really sweet for my family because we got to pray together more than we ever have before. We got to read the Scriptures together and we got to bond with some deep, meaningful conversations. I don’t know if this is the case for you, but sometimes family can be real surface level and it takes these kinds of things to get below that surface and start dealing with things and taking care of some deep stuff. And seeing one another cry and feeling one another’s pain…you just don’t go back up to the surface after that. When you love somebody that deeply, you just don’t go back to the surface. It was a really sweet time for my family.
Even in the frustrating times of the neurologists not coming in when they said they were, it just gave us another day as a family. It was a gift from God. But finally when that neurology team showed up and said, “Hey listen, Keith will never be the same. He’s just not gonna recover from this. Even if he wakes up, he’s just not gonna recover.” I remember, it faced us some really tough decisions.
I remember we prayed together in that room and all talked and discussed and read Scripture together and prayed again and talked and discussed again and I just remember my dad getting up and saying, “Okay. We have to do this.” And as he walked out into the hallway to talk to the doctors, I followed him out and I put my arm around him. And my dad in that moment had to have a conversation with the doctors to say, “Hey, I’ve gotta give up my son…I’ve gotta give up my son…” That’s weighty. Can you imagine? Some of you have lost a child before, but to say, “I have to give up my son.” That’s huge. And my dad in that week I got to see his faith grow and he led our family well and he’s a giant of the faith. I was proud of him and my mom and brother. Through all this pain and through all of this we knew he couldn’t live like that.
In the midst of all this, you know what the situation reminded me of? Do you know? It reminded me of another father who had to give up his son. God the Father had this separation from us because of our sin. Isaiah 59:2 says our sin separates us from God and creates a chasm and the only way to bridge the chasm is if God the Father gave up his son, Jesus. Not because of his sickness, but because of ours. Not because of something wrong with him, but because of what was wrong with us. And God the Father chose to give up his son Jesus. To put him on a cross on our behalf so that we could be reconciled with God.
Listen, when things like this happen — when tragedies happen — it’s really easy to ask, “Why?”. There was one night in the hospital when Heath and I just sat in the hallway hugging’ each other and just asking “Why, Lord, why?” and to be honest, I don’t know why. And I don’t know that there’s one particular reason why. But what I have gotten to see: I’ve gotten to see a lot of good come out of this.
Romans tells us that God works for the good of those who love him. Our family loves God and God’s already been doing things since we got that phone call on April 29th, and he’s gonna continue to do things today, tomorrow, and the next day. Why? Because God is good. I don’t think it’s this one thing that we can pinpoint and say, “That’s why.” But here’s what I can say, in the midst of pain, in the midst of tragedy we can always look and find the Gospel. On that day, in that hospital, in that hallway with my dad, I got to see a glimpse of the gospel. I got to see a glimpse of the pain that God the Father felt giving Jesus up so that we could have a relationship with Him. I’ll never look at the Gospel the same.
Church-people, the gospel is not just for people who don’t know God or don’t come to our church buildings. It’s for all of us. That gave me a depth and an intimacy with the Gospel that I’ve never had and I’m so thankful. So, I don’t know why, but maybe it’s so that we might see God more closely. Maybe it’s so that we might understand the sacrifice of the Gospel. Maybe it’s so that some of us can reconcile relationships. I don’t know. But I’ll be looking for it and I hope you will too.