This post is a “to be continued” from my previous post. Please click here to read it.
The lotus bloomed again when my father in law got to hold my sweet first-born son, who was born without any associated defects related to that initial finding on his ultrasound. My father in law read to that little boy, who was his name’s sake. He shared Moon Pies with his grandson, the one he was not sure he would meet. He let that little one ride around with him on his motorized wheelchair. He even let that three-year-old drive it.
But that was not how my husband knew his dad. In that wheelchair. Confined. My father in law was a man of military training, of strength…having endured more combat and battle wounds than the large majority of those who lived to tell the stories. The helicopter crashes…the battle with a young man’s cancer at an older age…the recurrence…the chemotherapy…now this.
I watched my husband as he watched his father’s health decline. There were periods of renewal. Then there was always a setback. There were brighter days and very dark and gloomy ones. I begged God to take this burden away from my father in law, my husband, my mother in law, my sister in law…me.
I will never forget that 4th of July, when my mother in law called. My father in law was in the hospital…we were at the beach. And in her, nonchalant way, she assured us, all was fine…that it was just something that had to be tweaked, that they had to find the right medication.
Just three weeks later, I sat with her in a consult room. I sat with her, my father in law’s brother and the physician in charge of his care. I asked all of the questions I had been trained to ask. I knew how the liver worked. I knew how crucial that organ, I knew what the yellow-orange color meant…I knew how it would end. I sat there when the physician told my mother in law that he would not make it. I knew that. But it sounded differently when I heard the words come out of her mouth that day.
We walked into my father in law’s hospital room, we surrounded his bed. Death is not something anyone wants to think about. It is not like birth, but…it is. It is when you know that the person you are watching is entering into new life with Jesus. As we watched him take his last breath, surreal, cementing, scarring…
As much as I wanted to leave off that word…scarring. I can’t. I wonder how it is that this even has impacted me in ways I have yet to understand. I watched him breathe his last breath and I still don’t understand why. I have had a harder time seeing the good that has come from his death than any other event in my life. The scar is still there. It’s on my husband’s heart. It’s on my mother in law’s heart. It’s on my sister in law’s heart. And…it’s on mine.
As I watched the face of my father in law’s father…after his son died…I saw the lotus bloom again. I saw raw beauty rising from the mud. I saw him go to each family member and proclaim God’s goodness and God’s promises. He spoke of seeing my father in law again, of God’s graciousness and goodness…of his favor and peace…oh, how he spoke…in and to our pain.
I still can see his face, that one of a father losing his son, the father who had also just lost that very son’s mother the same year. His face was worn by the years, it was seasoned and stained. It was wrinkled and worn, but it was pure. It was real. God’s light shone through that man that afternoon. And he bloomed…with the light of the SON. That lotus flower I saw; I will never forget.
The deep of my own muck, the building of my very roots was strengthened in ways it otherwise would not have been, had I not experienced those ten years with my father in law.
And in this Christian life, we cannot blossom to our magnificent potential without suffering. Jesus says this so many times, friends. We are not called into a life of serene waters, clear for the sailing, safe for the drinking. We are called into a life of being poor in spirit, of mourning, meekness, righteousness, mercy, pureness in heart, of peacemaking and persecution. In the world, this looks like pride, power, self-centeredness, deception, weakness. It also looks like pain, depression, illness, confusion and doubt. Name your demon, that’s what the murk, grit, grime and mud of our lives looks like.
This “lotus blooming” or a form of “right hand work” happens in places like hospital rooms of dying family members and friends. With the door shut for privacy, there is room for the quiet working of the Holy Spirit. There is room for a deep look into the eyes of each loved one, saying, God surely has a plan in all of this, He is near and He is sovereign.
It is simply not easy going against the grain, against what we believe to be “fair”, against the typical life cycle of a flower. Flowers usually start out as bulbs or roots, they are placed in good soil with fertilizer, given water and sunlight…and they bloom.
Not so with the lotus.
Not knowing much about the lotus, it would require a great deal of trust to believe that a flower could emerge from the a stinky, muddy insect filled cesspool of germs! One would almost have to see it to believe it. Thankfully, there is an answer to that type of trust, that type of faith – from God’s word.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1.
Our times under the deep dark water draw us into him. We are strengthened by His word, slowly and surely, until it is our time to put forth the marvelous unique bloom He created in each one of us. And…just as the lotus flower emerges only in the light of the day, we too only fully bloom in the light that is the SON of God..
Often times, we fully bloom in His light when we do things that the left hand does not know that the right hand is doing…those things done in secret, behind closed doors, in quiet corners…and our reward is only from Him.
Just when we think we will not be able to see, that the muck is just too deep and sticky…He reveals our perfect bloom beneath His light that illuminates the truth we are otherwise unable to see. It takes faith to see, faith to believe that there is beauty beyond the mud, the hard, the pain. It takes faith that plows through, against odds, reaching for the SON, and emerging…anew, recreated in Christ with new eyes… and there it is, our reward. Seeing as He sees, not as we see.