“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:14).
Some moments are worthy of our words…worthy of our remembrance. This is one of them.
We buried her yesterday. Sixty-four years worth of flesh buried beneath our grief for a life gone too soon. A life named Maxine. A woman I called friend.
I haven’t known her long. When my family moved here four years ago, we became friends through Bible study. She was not a member of my church, but never let it be said that she did not belong in my church. Long before I called this community my home, she was here…living out the faith that claimed her heart from an early age.
It is a faith that sustained her through some of life’s darkest moments…moments that have known my participation. Cancer moments. Six years worth of disease. A disease that has infiltrated our little community with reckless abandon and with determined resolve. One month ago, I buried another Bible study friend for the same reason. And can I just say…I don’t like burying my friends. I like having them in my life.
People move me. They always have. I would trade many of life’s earthly pleasures to simply have a cup of mocha with a friend…to sit across the table from one of God’s children and to engage with them in sacred conversation. God designed us for relationship. It has always been his plan, and it is a plan that I consider to be one of the most precious privileges given to us as believers in Christ.
Maxine taught me a lot about relationship. She was a woman of extraordinary grace and beauty…thru and thru. From the inside to the out, her faith journey was poetry in motion. Every room that she graced and every word that she spoke was a moment worth remembering, for wherever she was, God was right beside. Being with Maxine was like being next to Jesus. She embraced those around her with the great big, all-surpassing, unconditional love of God. Whether in health or in affliction, Maxine was all about her Jesus, and I am a better person because of it.
On one of my last visits with Maxine in the hospital, she caressed my hands with her warm embrace, and through the effects of her morphine drip, she uttered to me the words…
“He’s still on the throne, Elaine. God is still on the throne.”
Indeed, poetry in motion. Grace-filled poetry from the lips of one of God’s saints.
I shall not soon recover from the impact of Maxine’s presence in my life. Two years ago, she bought me a bracelet inscribed with the words, “I count all things loss that I may gain Christ.” (Phil. 3:8). I wear it today as a reminder that despite life’s losses, Christ is the ultimate Gain. Maxine gained Christ long before she dropped her cloak of flesh. But in that moment on Thursday…in that one suspended pause of time from her “here” until her “next”…she gained him face to face. Father to daughter. Savior to sinner. Creator to his most prized creation. An embrace for all eternity.
I will miss Maxine in the days to come. I will want for her presence in my life. But none of my missing or my wanting, would keep her from knowing what she now knows. Her faith has been made sight, and she has received her “well done.” Today, I am all the more eager to receive mine.
Of all the “things” that Maxine could teach me…could give me in this life…a hunger for God’s presence is the best. We are all headed to God’s presence, my friends. One way or another, we will all make that pilgrimage to his feet. Some of us will go gracefully. Some of us will go cursing the inevitable. But make no mistake…all will go. And in a single pause, we will bow before our God and receive our “next.”
What an incredible beginning to an inescapable ending! Eternity with Jesus. Eternity with Maxine. Eternity with you. How I pray for your participation alongside me in the most sacred pilgrimage we will ever make. Who we stand to gain will be worth every loss we have known, and so I pray…
Take from me, Lord, that which will keep me from You. Nothing I have known in this life is worth losing eternity with You. You are the Gain that trumps all my losses. You are my “next.” My forever and always. And until my faith is made sight and I see you upon your throne, keep my feet to the path of grace. Give me a Maxine kind-of love for your world and a Maxine tongue to sing your praises. Amen.
peace for the journey~elaine