This evening, I sat at a bench I am all too familiar with. This has been a bench that has provided for me the view of a lake whose serenity has often made me question why no other lake has produced a similar effect, or at least one that is as intensified as this one. This bench, a bench that has endured the companionship of my grief and childhood anger, remains planted as a cornerstone of memories for me, and serves to be a reminder of many things I wish hadn’t happened at the time they did and many things I can now say i’m glad happened upon my reflection of them.
But tonight, as I was mourning the loss of a friends mother and the loss of my own, I was tapped on the back as I frantically searched through the Scriptures for an answer to “Why?” but this why is a bit different from the why’s this bench has seen me ask before. Knowing the heartache and grief the death of my mother has caused in my life and the lives of my family members, tonight was a period of questioning God as to why such a dear friend and great man (a friend I often call the Jonathan to my David), would have to face the effects of how devastatingly troublesome death is when it hits us close to home. I wanted God to give me an answer for what to say to him. Almost as immediately as I turned around, the presence of a man whose demeanor was compassionate and loving said in a gentleness and frailty of voice “John 11:35.” The tone of the voice assured me that it was a passage that resonated with him so deeply that just calling it to remembrance invoked the response of his entire being.
For a verse that happens to be two words, I had to look it up and couldn’t recall it from memory. It says, “Jesus wept.” That was the solution the Scriptures provided, and as I began to embrace the reality of the grief, he sat beside me and began an exposition of his life - a story that was shared with remorse for his past but excitement for the possibilities it has opened up to him today. He shared everything, and I was captivated by his every word. His laughter in recalling the days of his youth was childlike and genuine. His love pulsated through every word, as if it was the heartbeat of his voice. As he began to share the albeit too intimate details of the love he shared with his wife, his eyes got wide and he boastfully made mention of all the things he found captivating about her - from her smile to her Spirit. As he began to share the details of his only sons life, he spoke as proudly as a father could speak. The confidence he demonstrated while reenacting his sons poised form in the pocket as a high school quarterback assured me that every detail of his sons existence is something he treasures.
Then…he shared how, on a night similar to this, he received a call that his wife and son had been murdered in a robbery that his son, out of his courageous spirit, tried to intervene and prevent. His tears spoke of a grief that need not be expressed through words, and I joined Jesus’ response to death in John 11:35 as well. Nothing more be said.
He listened as I shared my story and submitted to Jesus’ response as I shared the confusion and cries of my heart. He didn’t try and explain the mind of God, he just listened with attentive ears, sensitive eyes and at the end, a loving embrace.
I don’t know his name, or even where he is from, but I am thankful to have my own little Christmas miracle.
Be blessed this Christmas season.