We circled the wooden sleigh bed as my friend, Melissa, sat propped up against quilted pillows. An army of dear friends gathered to do battle in the heavenlies. We held hands and spoke words uttered from the depths of souls weary from a long fight. The room filled with tongues of men and of angels. Nine of us stood around Melissa that day contending for a miracle.
"I just can't seem to get over this cough," she told us at the sturdy picnic tables of PittmanPark two summers earlier.
"It's so frustrating. This dang bronchitis just won't go away!"
By that Fall, we learned what doctors had labeled as bronchitis and pneumonia was in fact the cancer that had once stolen a breast, now coming back for a lung. Same strain, new location.
Timelines get fuzzy when battles wage over years. But, by the time Melissa was beginning chemo and radiation, our friend group had already created meal and childcare schedules with no end date.
For two years, we cooked clean food to strengthen her weakening body. We alternated care for three children whose mommy was too weary from strong medicines that were simultaneously saving and breaking down her system. And, we prayed like I have never prayed before. All of us had witnessed miracles, and we claimed one for her, too. When one would falter in big faith, the others would reinforce our foundations time and again with the promises of our miraculous God as told throughout Scriptures. We held each other up as we held Melissa up. I believed that Melissa would keep breathing.
Melissa was always spunky. She was stylish, smart, quick-witted, and honest. She had her own way, and she knew who she was. First and foremost, she was a daughter of the Most High God. She was a wife for nearly 20 years. She was mommy to her eight-year-old boy, and her two miracle girls, ages four and two. They told her she couldn't have children after the cancer came the first time. But, she believed the God of creation over the diagnosis of the doctors, and went on to have both of her girls.
Melissa was a piece of work, and we loved her like a sister.
God is so good to give us friends like that. To show us miracles like Melissa's girls. To fill our lives with His goodness. Sometimes, though, life just gets really heavy. Sometimes, you're taking meals and caring for your friend's kids and she's 40, has a husband, three little ones, and is dying of cancer. You've prayed for years, but she still dies.
You've prayed, but she still dies.
The day we gathered for Melissa's funeral, death hung in the air in the black clothes that littered the room. But our friends, we planned it in advance. We planned the way we wanted to remember her. Like fish out of water, we walked into her funeral and we dressed up for Melissa. We wore our most bohemian outfits, most embroidered tops, coolest shoes, funkiest hair, most put-together makeup, and we honored the heck out of the friend that she was to us. We celebrated the person that she was and the life that had she lived.
Death can't rob us of the life that we left. Death can't rob us of the life that we give.
Death can't rob us of the redemption that we call ours, because of a man named Jesus who rose from the dead. God promises in Deuteronomy 4:30-31, "When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them."
Life is hard. Sometimes, you watch the world crumble around the people you love. Other times, the crumbling world is your own. Sometimes, the wretched happens, and we have to reconcile that. And sometimes we can't. We cannot live our lives curiously after God when we spin our wheels trying to reconcile the irreconcilable.
Sometimes, we just can't.
We weren't ever even supposed to know this difference between good and evil. We weren't ever meant to see death versus life. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the garden, they tasted something God never wanted them to know in the first place. Picking from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil opened their eyes to the difference between the two. God removed them from the garden before they had a chance to get into more trouble with other fruits beyond their capacity. We weren't supposed to know. We aren't meant to always understand.
Restoration doesn't always mean we will see things that are lost replaced. Even when fires burn whole forests, though, new life emerges from the fertile ground of ashes. Redemption exchanges that which is broken for wholeness. The things we overcame now give us the authority to bring the hope of a redeemed testimony to others. Though we want to see justice come for wrongs committed, God may use our triumphs instead to bear hope.
Like the brokenness that threads through story after story in Scripture, we may never see a redemption that satisfies our own understanding. We have to be able to make peace with that. We have to make peace with knowing that perhaps our broken story is redeemed through our children or grandchildren. Your broken story may be redeemed through the authority you’re given to breathe life into other people's stories.
As for my friend, Melissa, who died, I’m still working to see more pieces of redemption in that story. My faith capacity was expanded on her behalf and I don't want to lose that just because I lost her. The God I believed to save her is still the same.
We can't lose the capacity to walk curiously after the Lord, because we can't make sense of everything that happens in a broken world. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, and in all of these things we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37-38).
Hope and curiosity are still for us when we surrender to the kindness of a good God. In the end, God always wins. He always restores. He always redeems. The process still requires us to diligently follow and curiously pursue the Lord even when we don't feel like it. And for when we carry heavy things, we surrender to the truth that the redemptive work of the cross can and will be redemption enough.
This is an excerpt taken from Logan’s new book, Curious Faith: Rediscovering Hope in the God of Possibility (available at booksellers everywhere).
LOGAN WOLFRAM would give you full access to her pantry if you lived next door. She is a plate-juggling mom and interior decorator turned author, speaker, and host of the Allume Conference. She is a passionate leader who desires to see women live fully in Christ. Logan and her husband, Jeremy, divide their time between wrangling two inquisitive boys and a 175-pound dog named Titan. They reside in Greenville, South Carolina. She blogs at www.LoganWolfram.com.