Monday, July 09, 2012

The Little Man

He was only three. Barely old enough to be able to choose what he wanted included in his happy meal. Scarcely enough experience under his belt to maybe walk beside mommy or daddy through the aisles of a grocery store instead of having to always ride in the cart. Three years old.

I'm certain he was having a great day. It was a weekend and he was at grandma's and grandpa's. Mom was there too. Every kid loves to go to his grandparents. Especially when it's hot outside and they have a pool. Mom was folding laundry and he was squirting through the house with all of the energy his little body could muster. Every parent knows that is a substantial amount of energy. Space Shuttle's have been launched on less. And so the little man was navigating the familiar surroundings like an expert helmsman steers through the familiar waters of one of his favorite ports. Life was good.

Ten minutes passed. Fifteen at the most. There were enough adults around to put all minds at rest that the little man was well cared for. Until mom noticed she had not heard him for a bit. And so she went looking. He didn't readily respond to her call and that got grandpa's attention. He joined the hunt. They looked in all of the usual places and he was not found. Quick glances under the bed and out into the yard no doubt were responsible for the shot of fear that blazed its way into grandpa's heart. No. Not possible. It couldn't be that. The little man was too smart ... to well prepared and too well schooled. He had heard the warnings and he understood them. It just couldn't be. Grandpa ran out into the backyard anyway, glanced down, and his life was changed forever. All of their lives were changed forever. The little mans body rested at the bottom of the pool.

Grandpa jumped in, pulled him out, and began CPR. His agonizing shouts had alerted mom and she dialed 911. Experts arrived but grandpa had already gotten the little man to stir. He vomited up water. A helicopter was summoned and the nearly lifeless body was flown to a bigger, better equipped hospital. He put up a valiant fight. For three days he battled. And on Independence Day, 2012, the little man drew the stuff of earth into his lungs for the last time. And he was gone.


And so my life intersected with theirs. A funeral director searching for a minister was given my phone number. It was the kind of call you never want to receive. Surely there had to be something on my calendar. There absolutely had to be a reason to turn down the request to come and try to bring a measure of solace to the inconsolable. My calendar just glared up at me. Friday evening and Saturday. Empty blank days in the middle of a calendar that often resembles a crossword puzzle.

Given my choice I never want to see a four foot long casket again. I've seen too many. The experiences of 38 years of ministry has shown time and again that there is nothing more difficult, my trying, more draining, more breaking, more devastating than standing at an open four foot long casket and gazing inside, knowing that somehow you are going to have to explain to crushed, shell-shocked parents exactly why their child is gone. And where he is. And how God could let this happen. And what kind of a God is he anyway?

He is a good God. He is the definition of "love." He is kind. Patient. Generous. Giving. Sacrificing. Perfect and pure. But the world is broken. We live in a war zone where the prince of evil brings all of the pain and destruction that he possibly can to bear on God's people in a last ditch attempt to lash out and spew his venom from his dying fangs. Indeed it is a war zone. All too often the serpent appears to be winning.

Not so. Not so for one minute. Because the word is true.

"For we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose." Romans 8: 28. Please pray for my new friends. They will never fully understand what has happened. Pray that the goodness of God will be whispered to them through human hands and human words, moving them toward the Heavenly Hands that hung on a cross so that they can see their little man again.

That's truly all there is. And it is truly all we need.