As God has been stirring in my heart about forward living, it got me thinking about the front row seat to forward living I’ve watched closely for my entire life. When I think of trusting God’s faithfulness, seeing the new thing He is doing, not dwelling and pressing on, I cannot help but think of my mom.
In case you’re new to my story, my dad was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in May of 2008. He was a healthy, active 60 year old, a godly father and husband, a loving Papa to two grandchildren at the time, a passionate basketball coach, a talented master mechanic, a fervent evangelist and caring pastor with a shepherding heart. The prognosis was 2-3 years, but the disease quickly took over every muscle in his body until he went to be with the Lord on August 17, 2009, only 15 short months after the diagnosis.
I blogged a lot about my dad and his life and journey during that time (you can see many posts at www.jessemoralesjourney.blogspot.ca ) but as you can imagine, my mom’s life was drastically affected by the illness and most definitely in the aftermath of his death. She was his primary caregiver for those 15 months and had a front row seat to every change, every loss, and every challenge that the disease brought.
She continued to love him, she stayed true to her vows of “in sickness and in health” and patiently cared for him as they journeyed down that very difficult road. Despite the difficulty, my mom has continued to walk faithfully and thankfully with God most definitely in a forward direction. She has been my ultimate example. She is what I hope to be when I grow up.
As a child, I assumed my mom had always been the way she was- a godly, sweet, piano-playing, pastor’s wife who never says mean things about anyone. As I’ve gotten older and learned more of her journey with Jesus, her struggles and victories and many stories that evidence His redemptive power, I’ve grown in my appreciation toward her and my thankfulness to God.
In the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of walking with a few new believers. On separate occasions, they’ve both said to me, I just wish I’d been raised in a Christian home. That would make this life so much easier! While I know to count my blessings, I’ve also been able to encourage them by saying, God has to start somewhere in the family! He’s in the business of dramatic change. He changed my parents, He’s changed me and He can change you. From what I’ve heard, my mom would now be unrecognizable to those who knew her before coming to know Jesus. How’s that for living proof of a changed life? I have heard my mom say, I wish I had a different story, one with less painful decisions, but I’ve never seen her stop to dwell on the past long enough to keep her from the journey God has her on today. She says, my story is His story and whatever He chooses to do with it is fine with me.
Though I continue to be impressed with the work of God in her past, the thing that has and continues to resonate the most with me is how she continues to live forward through this leg of the journey without my dad by her side. His illness and death most definitely caught us all by surprise and left a giant void in each of our lives. But as much as I miss him and would give just about anything for him to be able to hold and play with Sophie, I can’t imagine what it must be like to live forward each day of your life without your partner and love of 25+ years.
I’ve seen her cry and struggle, I’ve seen her miss him and wish he was here, but I’ve never seen her allow the past to keep her from the present. She goes on by the strength that only God can provide and continues to do everything that God has called her to do with such grace. She continues to be a wonderful mother, grandmother, “pastor’s wife,” neighbor, friend and leader. When people ask me how she’s doing, I can honestly answer, as good as she possibly can be. She continues to press on and do exactly what God has called her to.
I’ve had the privilege of hearing her share her story of how you can experience joy in the midst of pain, a few times over this last year, but more important I’ve watched her living it out.
Yes, there are still many tears. As I’ve mentioned before, forward living doesn’t exempt you from pain. There are many times we wish he was here, many moments to share as Papa and Grandma with adorable grandchildren that just make you ache at the thought of him missing and moments of his baby girl growing up, graduating high school and achieving goals in the basketball world that he would be SO proud of.
As the writer of Ecclesiastes said, there is a time to weep and mourn, but praise God, there is also a time to heal, laugh and dance. All of those times are in different legs of the journey, but are all part of living forward and pressing on with Jesus Christ.
I hope you have been encouraged, challenged and ministered to by these lives that evidence that living forward does not depend on favorable circumstances. The call to live forward is in the midst of pain, in the middle of the wilderness and in the blur of the unknown.
I believe that the call to live forward is also a call to live by faith.
So many things in this life boil down to faith. Trust that He is enough for the mistakes of the past, the challenges of the present and the unknowns of the future. He is enough for your pain, your doubt, your weariness, and any other area of your life you feel short in. When we are weak, He is strong.
I will wrap it up in part 5 with what I believe to a key ingredient to living forward no matter what sort of circumstance or stage of life you find yourself walking in.
In the meantime, will you take Him at His Word? Will you trust His presence in the present? Abundant life hangs in the balance.