Two weeks ago today, my brother went to be with the Lord. I have struggled to write this until now. And now is the time to put in words what has happened in my broken heart.
At the same time we received the news from the doctors that my brother’s lungs were not able to heal from the damage Covid caused, the 2020 Summer Olympics were beginning in Tokyo delayed a year ago by the same virus that ravished my brother’s lungs. Lifelong dreams were coming to fruition for the athletes, as my brother’s lifetime goal was being realized to be called home. Some of the athletes would receive the accolades of men receiving a medal of distinction, whether gold, silver or bronze. They would be forever commemorated as an Olympian medalist.
My brother at the same time was receiving accolades from the One who created him 66 years ago. In that time He met Jesus. He surrendered his life to Him. He followed Him. He told others about Him. He left a trail of testimony of God’s goodness, God’s kindness, God’s mercy to those who would accept Jesus as their Savior. His Celebration of Life was one testimony after another of how Billy gave his life to Jesus and encouraged others to do the same. Like the Olympians on parade, my brother’s life was being celebrated, but instead of a flag, a cross.
His passing happened so fast I was left reeling at the reality of life without him. My brother has been there for me my entire life. But most recently, after all I have been through with my granddaughter in 2019 and my grandson in 2020, he cried with me over my fears and my exhaustion. He volunteered to do all he could to help us through this dark valley. He comforted me with his love and hugs as only a brother can do. He was there for me…
Until he wasn’t.
In his wake we are still in shock. But he is receiving the reward of a lifetime—one for a life well-lived for God’s glory. The very best of medals that won’t fade with time.
A week or so after He entered eternity, I prayed and asked God to help me. I needed His perspective on all we were facing. But He seemed silent. I say often, “God is always speaking, we’re just not always listening.” In this case He seemed silent to me. I was asking, but hearing nothing. Yet in a strange way, my faith was still strengthened. In His silence I could sense His tender grip holding the pieces of my broken heart together until I was ready to hear from Him.
Ready? Are you ever ready to hear God’s purposes in a reality you would have never chosen to walk through?
I wasn’t sure I was. This is why He didn’t tell me what or when it was coming; He just showed up. In my dreams no less, where I couldn’t argue or shut Him down. All I could do was listen.
I had taken something to help me sleep, so there was no waking through the night. I am a vivid dreamer (as was my brother which is one of the ways we were alike), and God chose this night to speak one thing to me over and over, no matter how the dreams changed.
I kept hearing, “Read Ezekiel 3.23”
When I finally woke up I grabbed my Bible and read these words, starting with verse 22:
“22 Then the Lord took hold of me and said, “Get up and go out into the valley, and I will speak to you there.” 23 So I got up and went, and there I saw the glory of the Lord, just as I had seen in my first vision by the Kebar River. And I fell face down on the ground.”
I couldn’t wait to spend time alone with the Lord. He was calling me to come to the valley, but I didn’t know how to get there. He reminded me that I have been living in the Valley of the Shadow of death for two years. I didn’t have to go anywhere, just sit, pray and listen.
So that is what I did.
Two hours later the pain in my heart no longer ached with sadness. Now I was aching to see Him, the Savior of my broken heart. He met me in ways that only I could appreciate. He is personal like that. One important thing He impressed on my heart is that Covid didn’t steal my brother from our family. No! God called him home, which is the desire of all who know and love Him. He is receiving the Crown of Life promised to those who endure to the end. My brother faithfully loved Jesus and shared his love for Him with everyone who came into his life.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12 ESV
My time ended by listening to a song by Shane & Shane titled, “Though You Slay Me,” featuring John Piper. If you haven’t heard it yet, I encourage you to set aside some time and let God minister to your soul.
There is no god like our God.
He is intimately acquainted with me. He knows me better than I know myself or my husband who is closer to me than any other person. And the best news? He loves me—not because of anything I have done, but because His son, Jesus Christ, called me by name.
My Niece-in-law said it well, “To know my brother was to love him and if He knew you he loved you.” I love this, and it can also be said of Jesus’ relationship to His children. To know Him is to love Him and be loved by Him.
I invite you to know Jesus.
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37 ESV
If you find your heart beating fast with the idea that your life can change forever, out of the dark valley, out of the misery you’ve endured thus far; it may be Jesus is calling you to respond to His invitation to love Him and be loved by Him. He is closer than you know and would love to embrace your broken heart as He did mine.
I will never be the same! And my closing ceremony won’t be a display of fireworks over the stadium in Tokyo. My closing ceremony will culminate when it’s my turn to hear, “Enter into the joy of your Lord!”