"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men's hearts and minds." Ecclesiastes 3:11 (Amplified)
My sister has been battling cancer 33 years–most of her adult life. On one occasion, she was healed instantly, remaining healthy for several years. The other battles have been long and debilitating, and this latest one has left her frail, but luminous with joy.
What freedom to let go many things that once consumed our time and energy. We no longer need to be always right, always BEST. Things no longer matter much: new homes, new cars, fashionable clothes. As she told me last night, "Kathryn, we tend to USE people and LOVE things. That’s all wrong. We need to LOVE people and use things. At the end of your life, it’s only relationship with God and loved ones that truly matters"
I am dazzled by the beauty of her insights–many of them coming in the middle of long, sleepless nights. On nights when she is especially restless, we share memories of the blessings of our lives: the fragrance of wood smoke in the little share cropper cabin in Oklahoma, worshiping with family and friends in the country church, watching the sun rise over Wild Horse creek, the sound of wild geese flying overhead on a frosty night, the scent of roses in grandmother’s garden, our Daddy’s radiant face as he was dying. Mostly, we talk about children, grandchildren and long time friends. And we remember those rare, luminous moments when , as teachers, we knew we were in the right place at the right time and the lesson was going well.
My sister taught 4th graders for twenty-five years, and now she can only remember the names of the worst and the best children. Yesterday at the oncology clinic, one of the nurses recognized her. Her son was one of those difficult students, a black child who resented his white teacher and his white classmates. Now he is a believer and finishing medical school!
"I had some small part in that," my sister kept whispering on the long drive home. "I loved him and I prayed for him." How beautiful to look back over a life well lived, over productive work and receive this down payment, this earnest of a bountiful harvest yet to come.
But repentance is also beautiful. As smart women with strong principles and stronger wills, we have both fought many battles over the years with our critical spirits --battles we have not always won. Now, all that "dross" is being burned away. One by one in the night seasons, we call to mind people who have hurt us, people whom we have criticized. She prays for a loved one long estranged from us: "Lord, I know he is insecure. Let him know how much you love him, and I love him, too."
"Explain to me again about 'rocham,'" my sister tells me. And we recall my first pregnancy when the doctor said I would likely lose the baby. "It’s sometimes ‘nature’s’ way of removing a defective fetus."
Defective? MY baby? I hated that doctor, hated my young husband who tried to comfort me. "We’re young. We’ll have other babies."
Other babies? NO!! I loved this baby with all the fierce elemental love of a lioness for her cub. My sister labored in prayer with me for months, and the baby came, not defective at all, but gifted and, yes, BEAUTIFUL.
He grew up tall and handsome–with a gift for languages, particularly the language of Abraham and Moses. It was he who taught my sister and me about 'rocham,' one of the most beautiful words in the Hebrew lexicon. For when God cast about for a word to describe His yearning love for us–He chose the one that means "womb-love," to love, love deeply, have mercy, be compassionate, have tender affection, have empathy–like a mother’s steadfast love for the small mass of cells in her womb that is making her miserable.
It’s only because of His rocham, womb-love for us that we are able to believe ". . . our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." II Corinthians 4:17 (NIV) And that, my Dears, is very, very beautiful.
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