My grandmother, widowed mother of six boys, commuted to work daily in downtown Chicago until she was in her eighties. Grandpa had died when their youngest, my dad, was five years old.
A tenacious woman, she is remembered for her steel determination and faithfulness to God and His Word. She had no hobbies other than reading and studying the Bible. I remember her often humming old hymns, like “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”
All six of their boys became preachers of the Apostolic message. But as time passed, two sons found themselves outside the will of God. Whether it was personal offense or tragedy or temptation, I don’t know. But I do remember praying for uncle Lindy and uncle Billy from the moment I knew what it was to pray.
Well into her eighties, when she grew too old and ill to work any longer, it became necessary to sell the house in which she had raised her family. I still remember the screen door at the top of two well-worn concrete steps, the mint growing wild by the door, the vintage linoleum in the eat-in kitchen wherein lingered the wafting remnants of vitamins, nuts, and fried chicken. An old radio was always playing WMBI, Moody Bible Institute radio.
The whole house was scented by the treasured, leather-bound volumes left behind by Grandpa, which held their respected position in the front living room behind the protective glass panels of the old bookcase. Those commentaries and theological treatises were the glue that bound us together when seams were strained and the family fabric threadbare.
It was decided that the best place for Grandma was with Uncle Billy, who lived alone. Uncle Lindy, who never married, would quit his job as a truck driver to take care of her. The two prodigal sons were now entrusted with the care of their rigidly faithful mother, from whose lips a beloved Scripture or loving rebuke came often.
Grandma would never miss a church service. Uncle Lindy drove her to church in Harvey, where Reverend Terry Cox pastored. Lindy, guilty, tenderhearted and miserable, knew that if he spent too much time in the services, he would find himself at the altar. So he kept his distance as long as he could bear it. Uncle Billy would come on occasion with them, and both brothers found an occasional moment of repentance, but the change was never complete.
Then in June of 2004, Grandma died. Lindy, who had devoted his daily life to caring for his mother and now left with a great void, was most directly affected. The day of the funeral came, and for the first time in more than twenty years, all six brothers were in the same room.
Where differences and guilt had divided them, the passing of their mother united them. They talked and reminisced and laughed together. They sang beloved old songs, and ended in prayer, brothers praying for one another. Lindy and Billy were so moved by the presence of the Comforter who visited us that day that they both re-dedicated themselves to the Lord.
It has now been seven years, and Billy and Lindy have been faithful. Those who repeatedly had carried their ailing mother to the Lord had been themselves carried into His presence.
I have wondered about the four who carried their crippled friend to Jesus and let him down through the roof in Mark chapter 2. It is their faith that brought healing to their friend. Would they have been so adamant about seeing Jesus for themselves that day? The crowd was pressing, but the need of their friend overrode their difficulty.
What became of them? They were witness to one of the oft-recounted miracles Jesus performed.
Whatever their story might have been, the fact is that they encountered the Messiah that day because of a sick friend. My uncles both found Jesus again because of their ailing mother.
Many people have heard our story, and prayed for us as Wes endured brain surgery and its various complications. People we have never met–and still may never meet–have lifted us up.
I don’t presume to know the issues of all those who have prayed for us, but I do know God does nothing without purpose. And it isn’t the ‘main character’ alone who is suffering for a reason. The ‘supporting characters,’ the extras…they all matter, and they are all involved for a reason. There’s a reason each person who has heard about us has been exposed to our situation. God has been in it from the beginning, and His plan includes all the cast.
So, for all of you who have carried us to Jesus, I thank God for you. I pray His purpose finds you, and that you are closer today to Him than yesterday.
Whatever it is that brings us to our knees, I hope we are thankful to be found there, pliable in His hands, listening to His voice, and ready for the next step in His Way.