It’s not often that I give a public view of my heart. Though I do public speaking for a living, preaching to multiple services at our church which are also broadcast live via the radio and internet; and though I make dozens of Facebook posts and tweets each week; the truth is that I tend to be a private person when it comes to the personal areas of my life. On the things that are most personal to me, I tend to keep my thoughts quite reserved. I am the type of person that if I were having a surgery, I would be prone to not tell a sole (other than my wife and kids) and just take a few days off without people knowing the reason and circumstance. But today I feel led to let others see into my heart, at least in one specific area.
This past Valentine’s Day my wife and I both were faced with a vivid and emotional glance at our immediate future. We were spending the day together out in Petoskey, having lunch and catching a movie. At the end of the movie we put our coats on and I began walking to the exit thinking that Laura was right behind me. When I got out into the hallway I turned around only to see that she had not come out of the theater yet. I stuck my head back inside and she waved me over to where she was standing.
She was talking to an elderly couple that had been seated a couple rows ahead of us during the movie. The wife was up but the husband was still seated. The wife politely explained to us that her husband had Parkinson’s disease, and after sitting for two hours watching the movie, his body had stiffened and he could not get up. Though she had tried, she could not get him out of his seat. As I helped her get her husband up he smiled, thanked me, and told me how much he had enjoyed the movie. We asked if we could help them walk out to their car but the wife assured us that now that he was up, though they would move rather slowly, he would be able to walk to their vehicle.
As Laura and I exited the theater we looked at each other and both broke down crying. We had just seen a glimpse into our future. You see, my dad also has Parkinson’s disease and the progression of his illness has begun to accelerate. Mom and dad live in Florida. They were with us last summer and we were able to see this digression for ourselves. Since then, things have continued that slow, downward spiral. Recently dad fell and my mom had real difficulty getting him back up on his feet. Though in his brain he was doing everything he needed to do in order to get back on his feet, what he was thinking in his brain was not transferring to his body.
This, along with other issues reacted to his disease, has made mom and dad realize that living so far away from either me or my sister would make it very difficult for my mom to be able to take care of my dad as this disease continues to take its toll. As a result, my parents have put their trailer in Florida on the market and, as soon as they sell it, will be moving up here to northern Michigan where we hope to find them a place to live so that we can be nearby to help care for my dad. As we saw this dear couple in the theater, and the way this wife was so loving and patient with her husband, we saw our future and realized just how much we will need the grace of God in our lives.
On one hand, I look forward to being able to spend more time with my dad in the time he has remaining on this earth before his entrance into heaven. On the other hand, I am in no way looking forward to watching his decline and his ultimate physical demise. I want to be the kind of son to my dad that this dear wife at the movie theater was to her husband. It was obvious that it took everything this woman had to take her husband to a movie by herself. It was cold and snowy outside. How much easier would it have been to just stay home and watch television? Yet, this precious wife wanted her husband to enjoy as much of life as he could for as long as he was able. That’s my desire for my dad.
We realize that the foreseeable future will not be easy for my wife and me (though I’m sure we really have no idea the degree of the challenge that it will be). There will be lots of heartache. There will be lots of pain. There will be lots of tears. There will be lots of trials. Yet, I am convinced that in every season of our lives, even the most difficult of ones to endure, there is a beauty waiting to be seen. We saw a glimpse of that last summer when my parents were with us and we were having dinner out on the back deck including, Laura, myself, my parents, and my daughter (Joy).
We were talking about silly songs when my dad piped up and said that he remembered a silly song about skinny-dipping that they use to sing at Boy Scout camp. Unfortunately, his demeanor sank when he couldn’t remember the words or the tune. Our conversation continued for a while when out of nowhere dad said, “Wait! I remember.” He then sang just the first line of that silly song from his Boy Scout days. That was all he could remember. Several minutes later he again said, “Wait I remember another line,” and he added the second line of the song. This went on for quite some time. It took a good 45 minutes or more but ultimately he was able to piece together the whole song (actually, I’m pretty sure it was a combination of two songs that he was making into one). He taught the song to Joy and one of my prized possessions and fondest memories is the video I took on my cell phone of him and my daughter singing this song together as they laughed and smiled (picture above).
It is that memory that reminds me that even in the hardest seasons of life there are beauties to behold. The problem is that we can become so focused and so absorbed on the hardness of these seasons that we fail to see and/or fail to appreciate the beauty that lies beneath the pain. It is my prayer that in the months and years ahead, whatever timeframe that God wills, I will be able to look through the hardness of the coming season of my life and not only see, but appreciate the beauty that I know will be there.
Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there is a time for everything. The wise man then gives a list of couplets with one side being something positive and the other side being the exact polar opposite (i.e. there is a time to laugh and a time to cry; there is a time to be born and a time to die). Each side of these couplets is different in that one is easy while the other is difficult, but each side of these couplets is also very similar in that both sides are part of God’s plan for our lives. That makes each side of the couplet, the positive and the negative, a season in life that includes beauty.
So there you have it – a little glimpse into the private part of my heart. If you right now are going through a difficult and hard season of your life, it is my hope and my prayer for you that you will be able to see beyond the hardness and take notice of the glimpses of beauty that I believe are there. You may have to look deep and you may have to put on your spiritual spectacles to see them, but there is a beauty that is present for you to view and to appreciate.
This past Sunday we showed a video in church of a dear man of God who recently passed away of lung cancer. I had the privilege of interviewing him on video a couple weeks before he went home to be with the Lord. I asked him how he was handling his physical condition becoming worse. He replied, “It’s not worse. How can it be worse when it ends with me seeing Jesus?” Now there is a man who can look beyond the pain and horror of a season of his life called “cancer” and see the beauty. After all, for the Christian the best is always yet to come.