Updated: May 24
Everyone of us has battled something in our lives. Some of those battles were life shattering. We live and love in a broken world. Very often, our dreams are only that, dreams. My beautiful oldest child was diagnosed with bone cancer when he was just a boy. My little family fought cancer for 5 years. After William died, there was nothing I was interested in. Everyday, after my husband went to work and my two remaining children went to school, I crawled into bed. I would rouse myself to get everyone off and then I would lie down and sleep; I was so very tired. We were all so very tired and broken. I stayed in bed for three years. This is what grief looks like. The remaining family members living under the same roof, and yet alone in his or her personal heartbreak.
As I struggled with my grief, I was not alone. God's Holy Spirit gave me a way to see through the Trinity's eyes just how vast and mysterious they are. I began to understand time through their cosmic and supernatural vision for us, their creation. I reasoned that our time and being is like a necklace. One end of the clasp is like the beginning of our time and the other end is like our end of time. I had seen my life as beginning somewhere before me with my grandparents and great grandparents. In my view, my life extended through my children and to my grandchildren. For me, now one of my very reasons for existence had been taken from me by my son's death.
But time for God and the Trinity does not look like that. They created time when they created the heavens and the earth and that time will end when our eternity with them begins. As soon as sin and evil crept into their newly created time, we, the creation, fell away from them much like a necklace falls if you hold one end of the clasp and drop the other end. But if you have a cross in the middle of your necklace, it will break that fall and allow God's beloved creation to return in time to the top of the clasp where the beginning and the end will meet and join.
One of the things that kept me somewhat grounded was my church’s Wednesday night high school bible study. I started helping teach after William died. My two remaining children were part of the group, and most of the kids were really questioning God after the death of a brother and a friend. My dear friend, Jean, and I led the Bible study together for some 15 years. She was our minister's wife and a powerful youth leader.
I brought my new concept of time into our Bible study. Over and over, I would take my necklace off and demonstrate, "If the beginning of my necklace is the beginning of time..." Every time we began a new lesson, I would say, "If we are talking about King David, where would he be on the necklace?"... "If we are talking about Mary and Martha, where are they on the necklace?" One night one of the youths said, "Why don't you make that necklace?"
This is where The 29:11 Story came from. One of my son's most beloved verses was, of course, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
There’s a funny ebb and flow to high school youth groups. Some years the kids are very interested in really digging into the Word; other years a group may be full of troubled kids and only able to grasp small bites of God’s manna.
For several years, we had a high school boy named Patrick. Every Wednesday night, as we started our study, he would sigh and say, “You do know that I don’t believe in God?” And we would say, “And yet, here you are back at Bible study.”
We had bought a disco ball as a visual illustration of Christ. It was made-up of little light reflecting mirrors glued to a large orb. I would hold the ball up and we would turn off the lights in the room. We would point our phone flashlights at it and witness the hundreds of prisms emanating from it, filling the dark with brilliant light. “This must be what Christ is like, full of light and reflecting light throughout His entire creation!”
Another visual illustration was a beautiful large glass globe that I had been given by my mother as a Christmas ornament. It was a gorgeous amethyst purple. I treasured that globe because I had had a difficult relationship with my mother and that globe had meant a lot to me after she died. Every Christmas, it would serve as the centerpiece for our Christmas Eve dinner.
At one of our Bible study evenings, as I held up the globe, I said, “Think about God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, overflowing with love, and deciding to create a perfect, exquisitely beautiful world, the Kingdom of God.” Here I paused for effect. “Now think about this beautiful creation falling and breaking. Of course, I’m not going to drop this to show you what it would look like if I did because it is so important to me but think about what it would look like if I did.” Here again, I paused for effect.
“Now, on this broken Kingdom of the Earth, separated from God and His Kingdom of the Heavens, we, as part of that creation, have two choices. We can walk through the dirt of the earth and cut ourselves on the broken shards of glass or we can look down, pick one up, clean it off, and hold it up to the light and see the rainbows of color. We can choose to bloody our feet or we can look with wonder at the fragmented broken beauty in our hands.”
I passed that beautiful glass globe around the room, cautioning the group to be careful with it because it was dear to me. When it had almost made its way around the room, our youth minister playfully tossed it into the air. He failed to catch it and it shattered on the floor! There were gasps all around the room. I caught my breath and the Holy Spirit was there. I said, “How do you think God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, felt when their beloved creation fell and broke?“
Later in the year, Patrick, our agnostic "atheist" said to me, “So, Salley, what if I wear army boots and crush those shards of glass into the dirt?” I had to think a minute. “Well, if you bother to gather a handful of what is at your feet, you’d still have glitter mixed in with the dirt?”
Most of us as Christians learn the Bible beginning in the middle of God’s perfect story. We begin with the birth of The Son of God as He becomes The Son of Man, lying in the manger. Christ made incarnate as the babe, Jesus, our Emmanuel. The name Emmanuel means “God with us.”
This is a Bible study written by a mother who lost a child to cancer. I believe that God prepared me, my beautiful son, and the rest of my little family for the tragedy that was to come. I have not been to seminary so my “theology” may not be perfect, but this is my story. My story is so important to God because I am so important to God. I am a daughter of the Holy Trinity. I am a bride of Christ. I invite you to find your own story within God’s Story. I invite you to pick up the broken pieces of your own life and examine them to find your own beauty.