I had the privilege of giving a message at a funeral today. The husband had lost his wife of 60 years. I remember when he told me the story of seeing her for the very first time. He described her as an angel coming down the stairway of their high school in 1958. Their love story began that day. Now, 64 years and an iconic marriage later she has passed away after a lengthy illness. Today we celebrated her life.
Imagine, 64 years together as one. What a journey they had. From that first sight at the high school, to the first date a few days later, their first prom, the phone calls and letters during their long-distance relationship while he was in college as she was finishing high school, to their wedding, raising two children, jobs, relocations, celebrating grandchildren, retirement and the ending with him caring for her for 6 plus years as her physical body and mind slowly slipped away due to Alzheimer’s disease. Imagine their first kiss; and their last. Like I said, what a journey they must have had, from joyous times to difficult . . . together as one, in Christ. Sounds like a movie script, huh?
After hearing their love story and preparing to deliver the gospel message and honoring his wife to friends and family at that Texas cemetery, I felt the Lord guiding me to some of the stories of great journeys, in Christ, that are written in His word.
I think of Adam and Eve’s journey of walking in harmony with God, then taking the bite and establishing the depravity we are born into in this world today. I think of God’s promise to Satan, and humanity, that he was sending someone to correct the wrong of Adam, so those with faith in the promise could escape that depravity. Imagine Adam and Eve hearing those words from God while they were ashamed and wearing fig leaves . . . Yes, there was hope for them.
I think of Noah’s journey of faith as he spent up to 120 years to build the ark. Imagine the ridicule, pain, and fear a 500-year-old man must have had; but he still continued building the boat, through faith in the promise. Imagine Abraham’s journey of faith in the promise while he walked with Isaac. What would be going through your mind if you were told to sacrifice your own son? Imagine Moses’ faith journey as he heard God’s instruction; walked into Egypt, rescued Israel from Pharoah’s rule and then spent 40 years of struggles in Israel’s searching and finding of the promised land.
Imagine Mary and Joseph’s hazardous 94-mile faith journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem while she was pregnant with Jesus. John the Baptist’s faith journey in preparing the Jews for the “new way.” Not to mention Jesus’ three-year journey with the 12 apostles, finishing in his ½ walk with a cross on His back to Calvary.
I think of Saul’s journey as the “Jew of All Jews” as he was transformed from the head persecutor and killer of Christians and began a new faith journey on that Damascus Road as he encountered Christ. The result of Paul’s faith in Jesus became worldwide journeys sharing the good news and his writing 13 books of the New Testament that are the cornerstone to the true meaning of knowing who we are in Christ.
One journey that strikes me is the journey David describes in Psalm 23. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . . “
Do you notice he refers to death as a shadow? David was God’s chosen king. Jesus would come through his bloodline. Through David’s faith he knew that death wasn’t permanent. He referred to death as a shadow when describing it. Death is a shadow you simply pass through to get to heaven, for those who believe in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
The thing about a shadow is that it cannot exist without light. Think about it. There has to be light. Darkness/evil can be defined as the absence of light. Looking at all of these biblical journeys, there is one common denominator, there is always God's light: the promise of Christ, even in the deepest and most dire circumstances. And His light always shines through every person who believes in the promise made by God in the Garden of Eden. The promise of Jesus. There may be dark times, there may be destruction, there may be disease, heartbreak, tears, loves lost, family breakups and tragedy; but His Light never ceases for those who believe in the simple and only source of our salvation from our depravity; belief in Jesus Christ crucified and Christ resurrected according to scripture. For those who believe this, they are instantly forgiven, holy, justified and have the righteousness of God. All because of His Light; Christ . . . in them.
As I finished speaking these words today, I turned to Herb and told him of how the light of Christ shined from him to so many. How I was moved by his revelation in Christ as I baptized him as a 78-year-old man, how he lights up a room and has impacted so many through his passion of helping others dealing with Alzheimer’s disease; and how he inspired others as he tenderly cared for the love of his life the last difficult 6 years of her life. Simply put, Christ in Herb, had an impact on the world.
I also told him that God's Light in his wife, Lynda, never failed to inspire everyone she came in touch with, including me. Yes, His Light, Christ in Lynda, planted seeds and helped her guide me throughout my life. From the day she gave birth to me, until I said goodbye to her on December 10th as she finally finished her journey through that valley and shadow to be held in Jesus’ arms.
Yes, these two amazing people are my parents: Lynda and Herb Etheridge. Because of the Light of Christ, HIS Holy Spirit, Christ in them; my mom and dad walked through that valley together, for 64 years. I’m inspired and in awe of the incredible journey they walked hand in hand . . . But I’m even more inspired knowing their earthly journey won’t compare to the glorious reunion that awaits them.
One question as I close my friends . . . Do you know this Light? Do you know Jesus and who you are in Him? Do you know Christ in you? If not, if you're unsure or have questions; I'd love to chat with you about your journey and how you can be changed by His Light; Christ in you. Thanks for following and supporting us here at MPACT Ministries and letting us share the story of the hope we share in Christ Jesus. Together we can make our journey with THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD guiding us.
I’m forever thankful for the outpouring of grace, love and support of my family during this time of Mom's passing. Peace and prayers to you all my friends.