It was a dream come true for us–embarking on this journey to explore the places we never made it to in our previous travels. We purchased a smallish camper with a comfortable bed and just enough amenities to make it work for us. In four weeks, we’ve traveled through over 5,000 miles of diverse, often spellbinding beauty. We’ve learned to laugh at ourselves and “Hilda” (our GPS) when a wrong turn is taken and she “recalculates” our next move. Best of all, we have started to become adept at enjoying what I like to call, “The quiet of now . . . .” In short, my husband and I have slowly been uncovering the sweet loveliness of growing old together.
Then less than a week ago, we were hit hard by the news that Josh, a young man in our church, was killed in a motorcycle accident. We ached with Josh’s family and friends as we remembered the shock of losing my husband’s younger brother 45 years ago. Vern was 19. There were no skid marks made by his motorcycle at the scene–indicating Vern didn’t see the car that made the sharp U-turn from the curb as he rode down the street. We still wonder, “What would Vern have done with his life, if the guy had made his turn even a minute later?” There’s no making sense of such tragedy.
We learned about the accident when we were headed toward the mountain that looms above all else in the Seattle/Tacoma area–Mount Rainier. We stopped by the side of the road to process the news–the physical distance between us and home felt like a chasm. Yet, as we began to lift up Josh’s family and friends suffering the shocking pain of his loss, the distance all but vanished from our minds.
After entering the national park, we began our upward ascent. We stopped at one of those information kiosks–you know, those places that orient the public to things to look for in the area. We were stunned when we read: “Considered one of the most dangerous active volcanos in the world, Mount Rainier has been the source of numerous mudflows, covering large portions of the Puget Sound lowlands.” As we looked around we realized that the trunks of huge trees, broken off like mere toothpicks, served as evidence of those “numerous mudflows.” Though acutely aware of the fragility of life at that moment, we continued upward, entering what became for us, holy ground. With every bend we climbed, God allowed us to look with awe at the dangerous yet breathtaking enormity of Mount Rainier. When we drove as high as we could go, we could see the turquoise of several glaciers above us. As hundreds of people milled around like ants on a hill, our smallness and the enormity of our Creator registered powerfully. That was the beginning of our journey within a journey . . . .
Two days ago, my husband looked at me in confused disbelief after reading a text message–death had struck again. It was Heath, the son of our closest friends. We considered Heath one of our own. Thoughtful, funny, smart–outspoken when it came to his faith in Christ–Heath was a big guy with an even bigger heart. It had been a thrill to join in the celebration, the day Heath married Amy (another one of our own.) Our daughters were in their wedding. Over the years God blessed them with two wonderful kids. What a delight it has been to watch their children and our grandchildren become friends, enjoying the wonders of life together. We never dreamt all that would be shattered . . . that Heath and Amy will not grow old together.
After receiving the horrible news, we found ourselves off-the-grid, camping in the redwoods of Del Norte Coast State Park in California. God ministered to us there as we were awed by the enormity of the trees. We set up our camper quickly in our need to take advantage of the remaining daylight. As we hiked, we were grateful to blend into the lush landscape of giant ferns and other forest greenery amongst the redwoods. However, we soon noticed a troubling pattern that amplified our grief. It seemed as if everywhere we turned there was a giant stump of an ancient redwood–obviously cut down in its prime. Each stump was surrounded by a circle of good-sized redwoods that grew directly from the base of the giant–like a fairy ring of mushrooms paying homage to the one that had been cut down. When we found one of the ancient giants on our trail, standing freely on its own–I fell against it gladly. It was there that God’s comfort–bigger than the sky yet tender to my soul spoke,
“Be still and KNOW that I AM GOD.”
Feeling worn to the bone as we returned to our campsite, we welcomed the clear direction of our loving Shepherd as we found rest in the shelter of His Provision.
There is more to share of our journey within a journey that I will write about in my next post. Still shattered as sorrow-filled tears continue to well to up without notice, we have taken a break from our traveling. It is tempting to wallow in despair over the tragic losses that will continue to be suffered for a long time to come. Last evening, this reminder from I Peter helped to quiet my heart:
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold
that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ . . . .
For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field,
the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.'”
I Peter 1:18, 19a, 24-25
How are we to get through the tragedy and heartache of life
that leaves us raging inwardly, yet feeling numb in our grief?
It is not about what we do; it is about where we turn.
TO BE STILL BEFORE GOD: IS TO REMEMBER OUR HOPE OF HEAVEN,WON FOR US IN CHRIST JESUS.
(THE HOPE THAT IS NOW A REALITY FOR JOSH AND HEATH BY FAITH.)
TO KNOW GOD: IS TO HONOR HIM AS THE GREAT “I AM”–AS HE TENDERLY QUIETS OUR BROKEN HEARTS . . . LIKE NOTHING LESS CAN.
All to His Glory.