Monday, November 11, 2013

Glimpses of Eden

Saturday, I caught a few glimpses of Eden.  (There were other glimpses too; I'll get to those in a minute.)

I was driving through north Mississippi, enroute to a football game.  North Mississippi is absolutely beautiful this time of year.  Hardwood trees shedding their leaves, which means they are in the glorious colors of Fall.  Cotton fields white unto the harvest.  Garden patches lying dormant, awaiting Spring & planting season.  It was a gorgeous reminder to me that once upon a time, there was a place rich with color and life and growth.  The One Who created that place pronounced it “very good.”  Every now & then, He sends a reminder of it.  My drive across north MS was such a reminder.

And then there was my arrival on Ole Miss’s campus.  Like pretty much every university--hopefully including the one where I work--Ole Miss reflects to me the latter part of Genesis two.  Adam was charged to work the garden and cultivate it.  (Aside: work is absolutely not the result of sin!  Another topic for another day…)  My son has a very significant job that grants people hope where there was none before.  He was trained & educated for that job at Ole Miss.  I join him in being quite fond of the place.  (See my post from a while back “An Alma Mater That Isn’t Mine” for more.)

But the university & its beauty (Ole Miss is really a beautiful campus, btw) & the buildings on it were just a quick reminder.  It was the people, gathering to watch a football game.  They were joyfully greeting friends, hauling food to the early-morning tailgates all over campus (11:20 kickoff), teaching their children about things like why the speed limit on campus is 18 mph (hint: guess what number Archie Manning wore while playing at Ole Miss), and what the alma mater is, and what “tailgating” means.  There was joy there, as there almost always is on gameday in Oxford.  (Aside:  Ole Miss’ alma mater is beautiful both musically and lyrically; it came up on the radio as I was nearing campus.)

James & his buddies were there, in full regalia (suspenders, bowtie, peacoat, red shoes,…the works!) working their tailgate.  They share food & drink with passersby, whether fellow Ole Miss fans or fans of the visiting team.  Two of the guys are married, & one of the ladies is expecting a child soon.  I swapped hugs, greetings, & delivered some goodies my wife had prepared for the occasion.

It was to me a grand reminder of Eden.

But unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend the game.  You see, there was another set of reminders Saturday morning…glimpses also of Eden, but sadly, of Eden in an entirely different direction.  Not the Eden of Gen 1 & 2; rather, reminders of Eden after the Fall of man.  Brokenness.  Irreparable brokenness.  Devastation.

I got the call as I was nearing town.  Lisa’s Mother had taken a turn for the worst.  Markedly for the worst.  Thus, I hugged my son & his buddies, delivered the food, and turned around to head toward a hospital ICU in Meridian, MS.

Her heart was not able to keep doing its job sufficiently.  Her husband of ~60 years—himself recovering from a serious medical concern—was brought to the hospital to visit with his wife.

Our bodies are broken.  Words like “broken hip”…”cancer”…”congestive heart failure”..."chemotherapy"..."intensive care"...even "hospital" confirm this.  Even hard-working country folks who love the Lord reside in bodies that are broken and will ultimately fail.  Like my inlaws.

Our world is broken.  My Father-in-law was a front-line combat medic in Korea during one of the many wars of the 20th century—bloodiest century in human history, despite all of our amazing areas of progress.  Knowing that Veterans’ Day was approaching, I spent time pondering while driving through the beauty of north MS.  And time remembering him, my Dad, my Grandpa, my brother, my sis-in-law, my nephew, my uncles, my friends…and praying that a day will come when there will be no more war.  But being thankful that until that day comes, there are so many who are willing to put on the uniform and swear an oath.

Why was my Father-in-law transported to the hospital Saturday morning?  Essentially to say “goodbye” to his wife.  The impact of this world’s brokenness reaches VERY far…even as far as ripping apart marriages, by divorce in far-too-many cases, or by the passing of one faithful spouse into eternity.

I wept when Lisa told me of her Daddy’s coming to say goodbye to his bride.  I wept for him a long time; then, selfishly, I wept for me.  For one day, unless the Lord should return first, one of us will say the long “see-you-later” to the other one.

Think marriage is all giggles & grins & puppy dogs?  You should've been there in the ICU, watching a man's man say goodbye to his life companion.

I got to be in the room with my Mother-in-law for a good while Saturday afternoon.  Then I kissed her head and left.  (At Lisa’s suggestion; we begin a new term today at WCU, and I had a sudden & dramatic schedule change late last week when a colleague passed away suddenly.  Again, brokenness.)  I’m pretty sure Lisa’s Mom never really knew I was there, which is OK.

This morning, I got the phone call from Lisa.  Her Mother’s faith became sight around 3:30 a.m.  No more labored breathing.  No more pain.  No more old-age.  No more wondering what lay ahead.  It is well with her soul, for she knew Whom She had believed, and was persuaded that He is able to keep that which she had committed unto Him against that day.  This day, as it turns out.

In the midst of many glimpses of the far-reaching impact of sin & the resulting brokenness, there were yet more glimpses.  Glimpses not of the Fall nor of brokenness, but of the grand & glorious restoration by the One Who said “Behold, I am making all things new.”  Glimpses of grace-filled promises.  To repair…to rebuild…to do away with death and sickness…to restore.

My Mother-in-law believed in those things.  I do too.  Lisa says her passing was very peaceful.  She was restored.  Her death was precious in the sight of God (Psalm 116:15).  An old Southern Gospel song that she loved spoke to this hope and to what lies ahead for us; to what she now knows.  I have heard her sing this while cooking or cleaning in the kitchen.  I have heard her quote this when lightheartedly pondering the next life.

Just a taste of those lyrics:

I will meet you, I will meet you,
I will meet you in the morning over there.

If you hasten off to glory,
Linger near the Eastern Gate,
For I’m coming in the morning,
So you’ll not have long to wait.

Keep your lamps all trimmed and burning;
For the Bridegroom watch and wait.
He’ll be with us at the meeting
Just inside the Eastern Gate.

O the joys of that glad meeting
with the saints who for us wait!
What a blessed happy meeting
Just inside the Eastern Gate.

Written by Isaiah Martin, 1905.

One day, brokenness will no longer be present.  We will not need soldiers, doctors, nurses, bone-marrow-transplant pharmacists, funeral homes…and we will no longer need the word “Goodbye.”  There will be no more glimpses of pre-Fall Eden; there will only be the place that He is preparing for all who love Him; a place whose glory far surpasses that of pre-Fall Eden.

I.  Can’t.  Wait!

Until then, we have only glimpses.  I pray that we see them and ponder them, whether glimpses of Eden, or of brokenness, or of restoration.

Bye, Granny.  You are greatly loved and will be greatly missed by all of us in your family.  Thanks for welcoming an outsider from NW FL into your home and family.  Thanks for being a school teacher and for modeling how to impact students' lives through education. Thanks for praying for me, for cooking biscuits for me, for raising a daughter that I love, for loving your husband before us all, and for loving my children.  Don’t worry about Papa; he too is greatly loved and will be well cared-for.

See you there in the morning, just inside the Eastern Gate.

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