Sonidos Serranos

Sonidos Serranos: Sounds of the Sierras...
Reflecting some of my family's interests: God's wonderful creation (especially mountains and hills!), music, and language...

Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

20 December 2011

God dealt gently...

Tonight marks eight months since Jona’s Home-going. Ten days ago, I had opportunity to tell how God answered prayer during the past year. I told the ladies at our church’s Missionary Prayer Group that it was difficult to decide what to share; I finally settled on the event that had the greatest impact on our extended family. Because it was hard to fit “everything” into the allotted five or so minutes, I wrote out and read my thoughts. I now share what I wrote for that evening...

Many of you know that our Good Shepherd led our extended family through the valley of the shadow of death this past spring. My nephew, Jonatan Torres, had been diagnosed with cancer right before his fifteenth birthday in August of 2009; twenty months later, in April of this year, God took him Home.

In late March of this year, John Mark and I returned from an afternoon walk with the children to find a message from my sister on our answering machine. She told us that Jona was not doing well, and she asked us to come. As we prepared to pull out of our driveway, John Mark prayed. My mind was numb, but I remember his asking the Lord to deal gently with our extended family; I was struck by his choice of words. Tonight, I would like to tell you some of the many ways that God specifically answered that prayer.

God dealt gently with us!

The hospice nurse on call that evening arrived shortly after we did. As the evening progressed and she assessed the situation, the tell-tale signs were there: That evening should have been Jona’s last one with us. But his ministry here was not yet done, and our gracious Shepherd gave us almost four “bonus” weeks with him.

In that time, He allowed all Jona’s grandparents to come from Uruguay and spend time with him.

While the US Embassy in Uruguay had been denying visas, God provided a visa for Jona’s Aunt Julia from Uruguay to come as well.

And on a Saturday in mid-April, as a friend of the family was trying to “buy” a ticket with airline miles for Jona’s Uncle Daniel, God opened up a seat on a flight leaving Uruguay that very next Monday (just two days later) – something that in this man’s experience as an international business man “just does not happen!”

Our loving Shepherd also dealt gently with me, arranging our travel schedule so that we as extended family could participate in Jona’s care during those last weeks – and be eye-witnesses of God’s grace to him.

During his middle-school years, Jona had taken his struggles (specifically peer pressure and consequent lying) to his father. Esteban had taken Jona to the truths of Romans 6 and 7: “If you belong to Christ, you no longer are a slave to sin.” Over and over Esteban emphasized these truths of the believer’s identity in Christ to his son – and, by God’s grace, Jona embraced them. In retrospect we can see that God was preparing him for what was yet to come.

Every one of us who participated in Jona’s hospice care can give the same testimony: “Jona never complained!” A friend recently wrote:

One comment that keeps coming to me about Jona is that he never complained. That’s impossible! These cancer kids go through so much...

I was able to respond:

God’s grace is amazing! Jona truly never complained. Only Christ can enable one who is suffering so much to follow His own example...

Our Good Shepherd dealt gently with us in allowing us to observe that reality first-hand in Jona’s life.

Because he wanted to remain alert, Jona asked that he not be over-medicated. God gave Esteban great wisdom in the administration of the pain meds in order to honor that desire. The result was that we were more clearly able to see God’s grace through the valley of the shadow of death.

Jona would often request two favorite hymns: Be Still my Soul and Bow the Knee. We could see him mouthing the words and sometimes hear him singing even though every breath came only through extreme effort.

We were able to enjoy his amazing (and sometimes crazy!) sense of humor, teasing or telling jokes even when he could hardly breathe.

We were witnesses of God’s grace to Esteban, encouraging Jona when his pain was greatest to pray for other believers who were also suffering but who, unlike him, were suffering in the shadows, unknown, without a whole support network to pray for and encourage them.

Because he was not in a medically-induced coma, Jona was able to tell us what he saw as his Shepherd led him through the valley: the angels, the second step he needed help to climb, the door he could not open. At one point he told his mom: “We’re all dressed in white – and Jesus is coming for us!”

In August of 2009 when we first learned of Jona’s cancer, we prayed for complete healing. Before the definite diagnosis was given, Esteban’s research had convinced us that we were asking for a miracle. So, we continued to pray for healing up until the very end. During the nights of hospice care when Daniel James would wake me, I would also go and check on Jona. “Will this be the night? Will God heal him tonight?”

When God chose to take Jona, He gave us grace to accept His answer as the best. Certainly it was the best for Jona. But more importantly, it was best for the glory of God.

Our pastor recently drew our attention to an incident in the life of Elisabeth Elliot:

Life Magazine photographer, Cornell Capa, told of an interview he had with Elisabeth Elliot: “I wondered how Betty could reconcile Jim’s death at the hands of the Aucas and the Lord’s apparent failure to protect him from them. Her answer came back without hesitation:

I prayed for the protection of Jim, that is, physical protection. The answer the Lord gave transcended what I had in mind. He gave protection from disobedience and through Jim’s death accomplished results the magnitude of which only eternity can show.
~ from The Savage My Kinsman
   (New York, NY: Harper, 1961), 9

Paraphrasing what Elisabeth Elliot affirmed, we can say: 

We prayed for healing for Jona, that is, physical healing. The answer the Lord gave transcended what we had in mind. He gave ultimate healing and protection from disobedience – and through Jona’s death accomplished results the magnitude of which only eternity can show.

Yes, our loving Shepherd answered abundantly. And He continues to deal gently with us. He is giving us grace. And He is reminding us that He is causing all things to work together for good, conforming us to His perfect image – so that ultimately He, the preeminent one, will receive the glory He so richly deserves!

1 comment:

Patti Perry said...

Thank you for sharing! God certainly did "deal gently" with you.