It was a very normal day. So normal, I don’t recall the events of it. Jon had probably worked. It was Christmas break, so I might have been home all day. I don’t remember what I made for dinner. We could have watched some shows and snuggled on the couch. Typical, mundane, and nondescript. It was a year ago yesterday. Perhaps it was the last normal day.
When Jon laid down for bed he started to cough, and had a slight rattle in his chest. That was it. No other symptoms. I thought he just had a cold. But I guess to Jon, something triggered more concern. So, around midnight we took our first trip to the ER. There was definitely a part of me that thought, “They’re not going to tell us anything.”
However, a chest X-ray revealed that Jon’s heart was enlarged with fluid around it. I guess life started to change then. The fluid pressed on Jon’s lungs, hence the cough and rattle. He was to be transferred and admitted to a larger hospital, but the atmosphere was relaxed, low key. I even drove back home to pack us an overnight bag since it would take a while for the ambulance to get there. My mind was perfectly calm. But I suppose my hands were not. I remember them shaking as I drove the 5 minutes home. “Ami, stop being a baby. He is ok. You’ve always known surgery would come.”
But the theme of this post is not primarily that first ER visit. I needed to set the scene, but today, the real story I want to tell is about true gospel unity. “Huh? How in the world are you going to get from point A to point B here?” Well, bear with me and you’ll see.
At some point that night, I called my dear friend Emily to see if she and Ryan would check in on our “nephew” Riley. He’s a Jack Russell-Yorkie, and we were babysitting him. “Yes, of course. We’ll just get Riley and take him to our house. But Ami, do you want us to come with you?”
She must have sensed the cracks in my composure.
So Ryan and Emily came with us, and stayed till the early morning when Jon was finally admitted. Em drove our car because she knew I was kind of a wimp about snow and late night driving. Yesterday as I contemplated “last normal” of a year ago, that first ER visit, and Ryan and Emily being there with us, God reminded me of some marvelous truths about gospel unity and the body of Christ.
Ok, it’s all about to make sense. But first let me tell you a bit more about Ryan and Emily. Ryan designed the programs for Jon’s memorial service, while Em artfully arranged and displayed our pictures. They’re among the many who have shouldered the burden of grief with me, and walked closely beside me in this journey. They’re counted with the folks who’ve truly been “the body.” Another precious thing to me is that they asked if they could name their son Jonathan.
Now, in order to tightly weave my theme, I must go a little further in the story. A few months ago Emily and I were collaborating on a project for church and we each had our own ideas of how things should be. We were both being strong-willed, to put it nicely. I thought I knew best because, after all, I have a master’s degree in education and abundant children’s ministry experience. Whoa! Yeah, that’s some serious pride and self-righteousness. Yes folks, I am a sinner.
But I’m a sinner with a great Savior.
Well, as it turns out, we had a substantial argument with a total communication breakdown. I think I must have been speaking German and she was speaking French, for it seemed we really couldn’t understand each other. Emily would tell you that she was wrong too. We both were. Fighting always take two. By the way, I do have her permission to post these things.
It was a situation that could have shattered our friendship, or at least moved us from being very close to becoming merely acquaintances. Our sinful actions were broken, but here’s the beautiful. Neither one of us was just willing to walk away. We both valued the other too much to say, “I’m done with you.” By grace we both understood that on the cross Jesus reconciled God to man. The Holy Spirit reminded us of just how desperately we needed Jesus’ perfect sacrifice. And not just at the time of initial belief! This believer desperately needs Jesus every day. It might have been Spurgeon who said, “I’m far more wicked than I care to admit but Christ is far more gracious than I can understand.” At any rate, I have a distinct memory of Jon using that quote in a sermon once. Forgive me if I’ve totally botched it and misrepresented it’s owner! But you get the idea. As I dwell on my great need, I understand how much greater is my Savior.
Likewise, it’s daily inundation with the gospel that utterly transforms lives. Praise God that the atoning work of His Son restored my fractured relationship with my Creator, my King, my Master! Therefore, we understood that ultimate reconciliation with God enables us to be truly, actually reconciled with others. Jesus redeems relationships.
So we both repented. And asked each other for forgiveness. That’s true gospel unity. It was not accomplished by us. Unity is accomplished by Jesus, and He gives power to maintain it. It’s the idea that I’m going to fail you, and you are going to fail me, but at the end of the day we rest in the grace of Christ and say,
“I’m not going anywhere. Are you?”
“No, me neither.”
In a beautiful marriage each partner has this security with the other. Likewise, because of Jesus, believers have this security with God. He never fails, but we do. Yet He says,
“I’m not going anywhere.”
And Christians SHOULD have this security with each other. If true reconciliation is rooted in the finished work of Christ, how can I not forgive a small debt when infinite debt has been canceled against me? If I’m really part of the body of Christ, refusing reconciliation would be like ripping off my own arm!! We need each other more radically than we think. Therefore, BECAUSE of the gospel, we can have this security in relationships.
Thinking on my “last normal day” also reminded me how beautiful the body has been to me these 11 months. I’ve gotten to see it function as God designed. A body. A unit. Living life together. Instruments of grace. Corporately worshiping. Corporately serving. Corporately on mission. Perhaps one result of the “last normal” was to make me more acutely aware of my need for others.
I would love to name all the dear friends and family who’ve been the body to me, but I’m sure I’d inadvertently leave someone out! So I’ll just speak in ambiguities. You know who you are anyway- valuable, and precious. When the Bible says “bear one another’s burdens,” to me it means these things: it’s the folks who’ve just let me talk, or let me shout. It’s family that listened. It’s one who stroked my hair and said, “It’s ok to cry.” It’s the friends who’ve let me stay at their house long after everyone else left because I couldn’t bear to be alone. It’s the people who’ve made me laugh so hard I cried. It’s lots of people who let me actually cry. It’s the friends who’ve gone out of their way to make holidays and birthdays special. It’s the people who’ve constantly prayed. It’s the ones who make me text them to let them know I made it home safely. It’s the friends who made sure I had plans every Friday night for months. It’s the ones who didn’t rush me, but at the right time lovingly reminded me that I don’t have to be defined by grief. God has so much more. It’s someone whose actions say “I’m not intimidated by the waves.” I could keep going.
And why have I been the recipient of such things? Because it’s what a body does. Because it’s the overflow of what Jesus accomplished.
So let’s tie it all together. Thank God for the last “normal” day and for all the abnormal ones that have followed! Praise Him for dark days that teach me to be dependent. So many things He’s shown me. How tenderly He’s carried. How closely He held me to Him. But today in particular, I’m thankful for His church, the church He made to need each other on the normal days and on the not so normal days. We needed Ryan and Emily on that last normal day. And I’ve needed them and many other dear friends since then. I’m thankful that Jesus established unity. I’m thankful that I get to better understand the gospel word, reconciliation. I’m thankful Christ’s church is a body, and that its members are inextricably linked. This is yet more evidence of grace.