Today’s guest blogger is my friend Shannon Patschke. As you will read in Shannon’s post, Easter in the Dowdy/Patschke family is spent at Grandma Patschke’s. These celebrations are very special to my daughters Lauren, Elizabeth, my grandchildren and their families. I … Continue reading
This week, we prepare to enter Holy Week and reflect on Christ’s journey to the cross, His suffering and His glorious resurrection. This Easter season has been different for me, because for the first time in my life I have been reflecting about Jesus’ mother, Mary. You see I can relate to Mary this Easter because she too lost an adult child, not much older than Elizabeth. Before we go any further, let me state up front that I understand the significance of her son being Jesus, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, the Alpha and the Omega, and I am in no way trying to compare my Lord’s sacrifice to the home going of Lizz and the boys. I am simply reflecting this season that Jesus was fully God and yet fully man and because of that He had an earthly mother who bore, raised and loved him as her child. So, this Easter season I contemplate about how did Mary grieve and heal. Did Jesus prepare His mother for those dark days? Did she know what was going to happen ahead of time? The Bible doesn’t say. Yes, Mary knew Jesus was the Messiah, God’s son. But did she know that would ultimately lead to the cross? Especially after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on what we now celebrate as Palm Sunday?
During Jesus’ ministry when He taught on the Beatitudes, and stated “Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted” could He possibly have been thinking of his mother? Did Jesus pray for his mother to help her through that time of pain and sorrow? Since our Lord knows yesterday, today and tomorrow, He knew the grief and the sorrow His mother surely would experience, and how would He help her? Did Jesus shield her from that pain until the appointed hour when He was brutally beaten almost to the point of death, thorns pushed deep on his brow, and being stripped of His dignity? How was she able to deal with her child being so brutally beaten? Was she there to see first hand the severity of the Roman soldiers? What about when He was forced to carry His cross? Was she there to see Him fall and not be able to help Him? And yet after all of the suffering He endured, to then have nails hammered through His hands and feet. I close my eyes and wonder the pain Mary must have felt when she heard the nails being driven through her son’s flesh. Hands and feet that she washed, held, tended, and kissed. Hands that had touched her face, held her hand, and hugged her neck…..Mary, how did you bear to hear his voice cry out in agony when He was being nailed to the cross? How could you watch and bear the pain as they hoisted His cross only to see Him that knew no sin to hang between two vile criminals? Your son would be spit upon, cursed at and mocked. Mary, how did you bear seeing your Son fight for every breath? Experts that have studied the crucifixion have said that Jesus would have needed to push himself up to take pressure off his lungs in order to breathe. In John 19:25-27, we see that you Mary are at the cross. We learn from that verse that Jesus entrusted you to John, the disciple that He loved. What an act of love and honor. And so, Mary, you were there…..at the cross…….as your son died. I can not imagine. I can not. I can not fathom your pain, your helplessness as a mother wanting to take away the hurt and pain from your child. Did memories of Jesus taking his first steps, playing, singing and laughing flood your mind? Learning the skill of a carpenter by his Dad, Joseph? Or His miraculous birth with the heavenly host proclaiming his arrival? Oh Mary, how were you able to watch your child die in the most brutal of ways, to watch the Son of God, full of grace and truth take his last breath?
This Easter season, I have come to admire you Mary, mother of Jesus…..I can not imagine what “That Day” was like for you. I can not. Did you feel the presence of God the Father assuring you that it was part of His plan and this wasn’t some horrible mistake? I believe God the Father was with you in a special way “That Day” comforting you and giving you His grace just as Jesus stated in Matthew 5:4. I know that His amazing and wonderful grace was there to comfort you during those dark hours and days He knew you would face because He is always faithful.
So, Mary, mother of Jesus, I wonder how did you handle your sorrow when the sky turned dark and the earth shook? And what about those subsequent years of the anniversary of “That Day”? “That Day” became our Good Friday in our church liturgical calendar. I imagine that with each passing year on the anniversary of “That Day”, you began to see all the eternal things that were put into motion by your son’s sacrifice. I’m sure conversations, comments, and prayers that Jesus had said over his life began to be replayed in your mind. They would begin to make sense, and fall into place and you would begin to see the eternal significance of what “That Day” had put into motion. I’m sure that realization eased your pain and you came to realize once again as you did as a pregnant teen……that God has a plan and He is sovereign. And even though you may not see evidence or the significance at that moment, it doesn’t mean that it’s not there…..because His ways are perfect. And God never promised anyone an easy road. In fact, Jesus taught the opposite. And so Mary, I am sure you were once again an obedient servant who relied on God during those difficult hours and days. Relying on the One who was and is faithful……you trusted Him once again and walked by faith and not by sight.
So, even though the hole Lizz and the boys left in my heart is enormous–and painful, I too grieve with hope. Hope because of what my Savior did for me, for Lizz, for the boys on “That Day”. I have hope that God will use the brokenness and the pain for eternal significance for His kingdom and His glory. The Bible is full of broken people doing amazing things that were open to being available and obedient for God to use them. You see, Easter is not only the story of amazing love and sacrifice but it is also an amazing story of hope. Because of the cross and the resurrection, I believe with hope. I grieve with hope. Because my Lord overcame death, I have hope that I will not only see my beloved Jesus face to face, but will rejoice in the embrace of my daughter and grandsons. Can I get an AMEN?
So, God, during this week that we celebrate the resurrection and the passion of your son Jesus Christ, please use my brokenness, use my daughter and grandsons’ lives to draw others to you….that is my prayer. You are sovereign. I may not see how this will work together (Romans 8:28) at the moment, and I realize I will probably never understand completely until I am called home. But here is what I do know: You are faithful. Your ways are not always my ways. I do not have the “eternal” perspective. We are only here for a short time. In James 4:14 it tells us that we are just a “vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away”. And lastly, this is not our home.
John and I went to see “The Story” in San Antonio a few months after “That Day” when Lizz and the boys went home. As we were sitting there in the coliseum , listening to the stories of broken people being used by God in amazing ways, the program came to the story of the passion…..the suffering of our Lord and the story of “That Day” as seen through the eyes of the thief on the cross. The song is sung by Steven Curtis Chapman. The title of the song: “This is How Love Wins”.
This video graphically shows the suffering He endured because of His amazing love. To those reading these words, please stop and reflect about the enormity of that. Paul Washer states that “the hardest thing in the believer’s life is to believe that God loves you as much as He says He does.” He loves us so much that He sacrificed his Son so we could be made right with Him. The poignant lyrics bring me to weep every time I hear this song and watch it. I stand amazed at what love, what amazing love, that He would do this for me. The chorus particularly speaks to me:
This is how Love wins, every single time
Climbing high upon a tree where someone else should die
This is how Love heals, the deepest part of you
Letting Himself bleed into the middle of your wounds
This is what Love says, standing at the door
You don’t have to be who you’ve been before
Silenced by His voice, death can’t speak again
This is how Love wins
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood, nothing but the blood
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood, nothing but the blood
Cause this is what Love says, standing at the door
You don’t have to be who you’ve been before
And silenced by His voice, death can’t speak again
This is how Love wins.
Lord Jesus please “bleed into the middle of my wounds and make me whole again……nothing but the blood, nothing but the blood”! Thank you for the hope and the promise that your voice has silenced death to never speak again and because of that promise I will be with you, Lizz, the boys and many of the saints that have gone before, where we will reign with you forever and ever!
I have specifically chosen these pictures of Lizz and the boys for this post because when I see these photographs, this is how I picture them going to their forever home to meet the one that laid down His life for us. A picture of a young woman and mother who loved her Lord and Savior, walking by faith, carrying her younger son on her hip and holding the hand of another young child, leading them to the One that is perfect, whose love has already won, and whose voice silenced death (Hallelujah!) , and who will hold them until I can one day.
May this Easter season, wherever you are on this journey of life, may the significance and gift of the cross bleed into your wounds and make you whole again because this is How Love wins! Amen. Julie
I had the privilege of working with Kim’s mother for many years and she made us all better people and taught us a thing or two about character, integrity, and an amazing work ethic. Please welcome my friend Kim Laney-Gonzalez to the blog today and may you be as blessed as I was with her thoughts about Matthew 5:4 on the 1 year anniversary of Joyce going home. -Julie
Christ’s Sermon on the Mount gives us eight wonderful gifts, called The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). I have taught The Beatitudes many times in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) in my parish. The Beatitudes are phrases that tell us we can happy or blessed, why we will be happy, and what the reward will be if we do what Jesus asks of us. Beatitude is a word for “blessing” or “blessedness”. There are two parts to each Beatitude. The first part expresses a position of spiritual joy and peace for the person who practices it. The second part speaks of some gift in which those are practice the Beatitudes are already sharing. When reading the Beatitudes, try substituting the phrase “Happy are” for “Blessed are”. The Beatitudes give us ideas about how to choose the things that are good for us and for others. When teaching this topic, it always seemed so cut and dry to me. If you do “this” you get “that”.
The past year has really tested my understanding and trust in the Beatitudes. Especially Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” One year ago this week, I sat by my mother’s bedside, held her hand, and watched as she took her last breath and went to be with the One who heals perfectly. Since then, I have mourned. I have come back to Matthew 5:4 many times in the last 365 days and wondered “Lord, how am I really happy about mourning my mother? I don’t feel comforted. ” I recently realized two things. One, I totally forgot what I had taught others regarding this particular beatitude. And two, I have rejected God’s comfort this past year. Let me explain.
Why are those who mourn blessed/happy?
Well, the cut and dry reason is that when we mourn, we are telling God two things: how sad we are and how appreciative everything he has given us. We may be sad about losing a loved one, but we were blessed to have loved that person. It doesn’t even mean that the person you loved died. You may have lost a relationship with someone and are mourning that situation. But if you loved them, there was some blessing in that relationship at some point.
I was blessed to have my mother. I had the honor of being her first-born and her only daughter. As I grew up, she raised me to be a productive member of society. She led by example and worked hard her entire life. As an adult she was my friend and confidant. She and I had the unique blessing of working together professionally. My dad and my husband used to tease us about “talking shop” all the time. Not many people can say they worked with their mothers. It was a blessing to me in many ways because I got to see and talk to her a lot! We even traveled together for work on a few occasions. She was and always will be my hero and my role model. Reflecting on these reasons and many others, I realize now that I am “happy” to mourn.
How are we comforted?
Those who practice this Beatitude recognize that God is their comfort and they share in this gift from God. God is there for us in our time of sorrow. This is what I have been missing, well rejecting, during this past year. When I have wondered why I wasn’t being comforted, I now realize I was rejecting God’s comfort. I need to allow God to comfort me. I look over the past year and I realize He has been comforting me. But like a spoiled child I have taken it for granted or ignored it. He has sent his comforting in many ways.
I remember the day we told our children that Grandma died. Our son was 4, the twins daughters were 3 and the baby (another girl) was 9 months old. We were putting the kids to bed and my daughter Elizabeth put my face between her hands. She asked me “Are you sad that Grandma died?” I replied, “Yes, I am very sad.” Elizabeth wrapped her arms around my neck and hugged me and said “Don’t be sad, Momma. Grandma is with Jesus.” She did not let go of me until I stopped crying. That was God comforting me through the arms of a little child.
God has sent comforting to me in other ways. My sweet friend, Libby, has been a comfort to me. We are kindred spirits in that we both lost a parent recently. In her own mourning and despair, she has reached out to me to offer comfort. I hope I have reciprocated that to her and paid it forward with other friends who have lost a parent recently. My father has also comforted me. I know this year has been hard for him. He lost the love of his life after only 45 years of marriage. Yet, always a parent, he has listened to me and comforted me. My wonderful husband, Marc, has been my rock throughout this year. I could not have gone through this without him. He has held me when I have cried, he as supported me with words of encouragement, and he has also busted my chops when I needed it!
This next example of comforting may seem odd. On August 2, 2012, I attended a funeral service for my friend Julie’s daughter and grandsons. This service came at a very low point for me and I was probably as close to spiritually bankrupt as I could be. I was not doing well with my mother’s death at the time I heard the news about Lizz and the boys. I sat there wondering why God would let this happen. I mean, losing a parent is one thing, but children/grandchildren are not supposed to die first. What was He thinking? Strangely, I was comforted in the messages delivered that day from all the speakers. The music used in that service nourished my soul. To this day, I cannot hear “10,000 Reasons” without thinking of the Diem/Herro/Dowdy families. Thank you for letting me participate in that service. God was there that day comforting all of us, regardless of our situation. That was the day my spirit began to bounce.
So now that a year has passed, I’m supposed to be done mourning right? No. I will never stop mourning my mother’s passing. That would mean forgetting how much I loved her when she was here on Earth. However, I step into this next year and all the years to come with a new perspective and attitude. I believe my mother is always with me. I believe in Christ’s promise that I will be comforted and that I believe I will see my mother again.
Regardless of your situation, regardless of whom you are mourning, you are blessed and you will be comforted. Keep your eyes and your heart open for it! It is my prayer that you feel that comfort when you need it most.
In loving memory of my mother, Joyce Laney. June 6, 1945-March 15, 2012
Yours in Christ,
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4