It's been a couple of weeks since our friend, Kelly found her way into the arms of Jesus, and in doing so, I found my way to His feet. It's been here that I've washed those feet with my tears, pondering all that feels lost, all while peppering Him with my questions.
In one of my snottier moments I became a bit undone as I sat with my Lord, expressing my opinion on what now seemed to be unfulfilled hopes and dreams. I poured out honest feelings that, to me, looked like unfinished plans and more: unmet expectations, unanswered prayers, unseen opportunities, and unspoken conversations. Summing them up all up – unlikeable. I realized that's a lot of un.
Merriam-Webster defines un as a word added to a base word and it gives a meaning opposite of the intent of that word. I see... un had attached itself to our plans, expectations, prayers, opportunities and conversations. Quite clearly, it had also become attached to my happy and settled space.
As I conversed with God about Kelly's unfinished plans I reminded Him of every selfish prayer I had for her on behalf of A Very Merry Cindy Christmas. An event for single mom's that honored another dear friend, Cindy who passed away from lung cancer. Kelly loved the idea of blessing single moms at Christmas and offered her beautiful Creekside Inn as a hosting site. Do you remember how excited we were, Lord, when we saw Your hand in the event? Every time Kelly shared the event with someone donations were offered.
After Kelly's initial testing, when I'd asked her what the doctors suspected, her response was, "Oh, Kolleen. It's not good." This caused my heart to sink. Lord, this cannot be possible. How can you invite Kelly into an event honoring one friend who died from cancer and have cancer now be part of her story? This was when the expectation took over. I know what you're going to do, God! This time, we will see the healing we'd prayed Cindy would receive. Certainly, you would not allow us to suffer another loss. We'd cling to the hope and expectation of a miracle.
While Kelly was in treatment I asked her what her thoughts were about the event we'd scheduled for a Saturday in December; she said, "As I pray about this I believe God is saying, 'Christmas in July.'" Woohoo! If God is telling her the event should be in July, well, He knows how involved she is, this obviously must mean she's going to find healing. After all, we can't do this without her.
Now, I find myself wrestling with this attachment to un. Honestly, it's taking a toll on my emotions as it appears to have bullied its way into my perspectives as I adjust to this new condition I never saw coming. As I chatter on with the Lord, my heart flutters a bit and I sense a pressing to read Hebrews chapter 11. Opening my Bible, my eyes began to create puddles when they fell upon verse four, "By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks" (ESV). I perceive a whisper of instruction that says, reread this Kolleen from the perspective of the loss of Kelly, "and through her faith, though she died, she still speaks." What???
Twice in this chapter of Hebrews there is mention of those who did not receive what was promised but were commended for their faith. The Lord had just flipped the switch for me by inviting me to experience this through my kingdom identity. God wasn't done with Kelly and I could make an adjustment by removing the word un from the base words I'd attached it to.
What I considered to be unfinished plans can be viewed as finished for Kelly. She completed the part of the race God had planned for her. In fact, what she saw with only partial clarity she now sees complete. "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV). Kelly now sees the whole of every plan.
My unmet expectations give way to new ones made possible because of God's tender care and compassion. These allow me to confidently draw near to His throne and allow me to receive mercy and find grace to help in this time of need (Hebrews 11:4:16).
Every unanswered prayer Kelly had for her family, friends, co-workers, community —all that was in her heart—continues because Kelly asked others to pray them with her for them. Will her prayers be answered because we prayed without ceasing? (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Moving forward what we assume are unseen opportunities now become opportunities for others to step into what God was doing in Kelly's life; a passing of the torch so-to-speak. What was Kelly passionate about? What did she pour her life into it? Has God provided the opportunity to pick up the mantle and carry it for her? "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58, ESV).
I weep for the unspoken conversations I imagined we'd have. I enjoyed every conversation I had with Kelly. The silence of her absence screams loudly. Yet, I am reminded that "though she died, she still speaks." How?
She's speaking through those who were invested in her life, admired her faith and pursue God, whom she loved. She speaks when we remember her advice and consider, "what would Kelly say to me right now?" While visiting my daughter in the south I found myself frequently passing Kelly-Mill road and a memory would rise or one of her prayer requests would resume where I left off. I was caught off guard when, as I worked on this, Pat and I stopped for lunch and the waitress came to the table and announced, "Hi! I'm Kelly and I will be taking care of you today." (I was so caught off guard it was difficult for her to make sense of anything I said! Pat wondered what was happening to me!)
I've decided it's time for me to make peace with the un and cut it off. Un works hard to attach itself to God's character in moments of sorrow as it tries to convince us that He is unloving, unapproachable, unwilling or unaware. I know the opposite to be true; He is loving, approachable and intimately aware. He is also willing to have His feet covered in tears and snot when we need to pour our brokenness upon Him. Grief does not offend God.
Jesus instructs us to remain in Him (John 15:4), and the closer we get to Him the more aware we become of our kingdom identity. This is where resiliency of faith takes hold and we are able to rise and walk again when life is interrupted by the unplanned or unexpected.
Oh, it also helps us to make a clean break from un.