“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Sunday, September 24, 2017


A number of years ago, my wife, LaRee, and I gave a keynote speech to over 800 people at a U.S. National Right to Life Prayer Breakfast in Pittsburgh. We told our story about living with incurable and aggressive multiple sclerosis for three decades: I spoke from the perspective of a sufferer. She spoke from the perspective of a spouse watching the sufferer 

It was extraordinarily rare for LaRee because, by nature, she's shy and prefers to stay in the background. If memory serves me correctly, it was only one of three times LaRee agreed to publicly speak from a family member's perspective.

What I said was inconsequential compared to her testimony. I'm forced to live with disease and disability. LaRee chose to stay. She has so much life experience, from abortion to end-of-life issues. LaRee's heart has often been broken yet remains tender and open to love for love's sake.

She spoke about the pain of watching a number of loved ones
suffer and die. Her mother spent her last years in a substandard nursing home. Without LaRee's constant advocacy on her mother's behalf, who knows how poor her care would have been? LaRee helplessly watched the infirmities of extreme old age and deaths with her beloved grandparents. For more than 30 years she has lived with my degeneration with aggressive multiple sclerosis (MS).

It was at my urging that LaRee agreed to walk on the stage to address people from all across America. She sat with me at the table provided and looked down at the tablecloth. When it was her turn to address the audience, she slowly began to speak. Her voice trembled as she began to speak. 

"There is a special torment experienced by those who watch a loved one suffer. To see disease rack their bodies, and souls, increases the sum total of suffering ... because I suffer too."

The room became quiet as a tomb. Even the sound of air vents stopped. Still too timid to look up, LaRee continued, "I believe it is harder to watch degenerative disease torture and break my loved ones than to actually suffer the disease."

Something profound was about to unfold.
LaRee slowly raised her head and looked at the expectant audience.

Her gentle brown eyes revealed a grief of unspoken sadness ... finally about to be revealed. And yet in those same beautiful eyes, there was also a hint and a glint of hard-won victory of love. Her voice grew stronger with conviction that resonated to the back of the banquet hall. LaRee was coming into her stride:

"Despite countless trials, love has prevailed. Love is like the two sides of a precious coin. The two sides of love are this: It is life’s greatest ecstasy but also the cause of life’s greatest agonies and anguish. The 19th Century writer, Victor Hugo said, 'To love or to have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life. To love is a consummation.' -- And so it is."

She paused, sighed, then continued: 

"And yet as a wife, mother, and grandmother, I want more, and I ask further. I want to protect those I love from pain, emotional hurts, disappointments, and even life as it ends—but I cannot. So often I sat at the bedside of a suffering loved one and begged God to give me their pain – as though there is some quota of suffering to be filled which I can bargain about with God. There is not."

Thunderous silence!

LaRee went on to speak of life's agonies and love's triumphs, of broken-hearted victories that ultimately prove that blessings can appear as burdens, and that every life is precious and worth living, even when circumstances indicate otherwise. She spoke of a spiritual beauty only to be found in human brokenness and poverty of spirit.

It is in those shattered and tattered times of sorrow -- after convulsive weeping has reached its apex and then subsides -- that the individual collapses emotionally and spiritually defeated and at the end of their human resources. Their heart lies on the floor raw and open like a deep wound. But it is open. Stillness descends. A small voice whispers "Weary and heavy-heart, come to Me and I will give you rest." The Divine lover and the loved can finally enter a communion of hearts. The loved understands everything happens for a reason and all things really do work together for the good of those who love God; human suffering today will give way to immeasurable glory tomorrow.

And although she did not say it, the inference was clear: the point of life is to love God with our whole being and one another with complete abandon. The joy is part of the pain and the pain is part of the joy. That's how love works.

"For now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see things with perfect clarity. For all I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely." Three things will last forever -- faith, hope and love -- and the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13.12-13)

No comments: