Being hit below the belt…

Posted: May 7, 2007 in Family, Happenings, Perspective, Uncategorized

At 12:08 a.m. Tuesday morning, my mother called me from Atlanta (1:08 a.m. her time) to inform me that my father had passed away.  “We lost daddy,” she said.  Those three words will linger in my head for years to come.  I sat there on the bed…stunned, motionless, as I tried to croak out the words, “What??  What happened?”  She informed me that my father had suffered a severe, unexpected heart attack, and God called him home even as the EMT’s tried to resuscitate him.

While there is much more to the story, I’ve rehashed it enough to people over the past few days that it’s becoming more and more difficult to tell the story as I am becoming increasingly aware of the sheer reality of it.  So I won’t attempt to actually put it to page just yet.  I’m not quite ready for that.  When I am, I will attempt to not only say what happened but hopefully write an appropriate eulogy to a man that was a father, friend, and role model.

I’m never one to over-spiritualize events.  Let me qualify that statement by explaining that though I believe in God, the devil, and reality of spiritual warfare, I’m hesitant to presume to have all the answers about how this plays out in the daily routine of life.  I firmly believe that people too often superimpose the divine or satanic on life situations or shirk responsibility for their own actions by saying things like “God willed it” or “the devil made me do it.”  Likewise, I firmly believe that God does indeed will things to happen and Satan is a very real author of temptation.  But I think it takes a discerning mind to know the difference between what is divine or satanic and what is merely the consequence of our own actions or human existence.  As C.S. Lewis once put it in The Screwtape Letters, people (paraphrased) don’t need to see demons behind every tree, but likewise ought not to discount the existence of angels and demons.

I will not get into a discussion about the events that led to my father’s death.  I will not speculate beyond the simple statement that God called him home.

However, I have NO doubt that Satan used this week to hit me (and my friends) below the belt.  Though I know he may not be the cause of my father’s death or the other problems my friends have faced, I’m certain he’s been there waiting to discourage and complicate this (and the other) already difficult situation(s).

It has quite literally been one thing after another:

– The day after my father died, Dave was involved in a car accident, likely totalling his car, causing painful bruising to his abdomenal area, and challenging his decision to quit a job with great benefits – like great health insurance.  In addition, any such event that reminds you of your own mortality can be a discouraging one.

– J-mo, who graciously attended my father’s viewing and funeral, was involved in a vehicular ‘incident’ with a retread in the middle of I-20 as he was returning home, damaging his car.

– Zachary came down with his first-ever stomach bug (vomiting, etc.) on Friday while in the care of a friend who had graciously offered to keep him here while we attended to the somber matters of the funeral.

– The friend who kept Zachary (and the rest of her family) had to miss church yesterday because they, too, caught Zachary’s stomach bug.

– Because of Z’s illness, Stacey had to stay home from church yesterday, thus, missing out on much-needed time with friends in worship and community.

– The events of the past few days have taken an emotional toll on Stacey (and me), and it’s difficult not to succumb to depression or anger.

– This morning, Kailyn woke us up vomiting as well, having likely caught the bug on Saturday before Zachary’s fever had broken.

– On top of these events, there are many other stories of people dealing with inordinate amounts of stress, work-related issues, health issues, and on and on and on…

….

Again, I will not speculate as to whether Satan causes events like these.  However, I am confident that he exploits them to hit us below the belt and discourage us.  He want us to quit.  He wants us to give up.  He wants us blaming God for our woes.  He wants us to feel so overwhelmed that we cannot move.  Then he wants to deny any involvement and have us go on believing that he is not real and God is irrelevant and powerless.  He wants us believing that there is neither hope nor grace.

But there is.  And in spite of everything that has happened, God has left a greater impression on the events of the past few days than Satan ever could hope to.

– My father may be gone, but he’s now with God.  Eternal life is real.

– My mother has been surrounded by godly friends that have been an important part of both my parents’ lives.  They have helped her in a time of great need, and will continue to do so.  That community and their love for God and one another is amazing.  That community is real.

– Many people in our own church have been INCREDIBLY supportive, offering to do things like help us with meals and watching our kids.  Someone (or more) even mowed our lawn while we were away.  This community is real, and we are simply stunned by the outpouring of help and we are incredibly grateful.

– Though their automotive mishaps were not of the same severity, both Dave and J-mo emerged from their respective incidents alive and they are pressing on.  God’s not done with either of them yet.

– Zachary is well.  Kailyn will be.  Her babysitters will get well.

– Worship at Crosspoint yesterday absolutely rocked.  It was not me.  It was God.  I was used up.  I was tired.  I was emotionally drained.  But God left his mark in our church yesterday.  In our worship, we – through God’s power – showed Satan that we will not turn or give up.  He may hit us below the belt, but we will kick him back by staying true to the mission and maintaining a heart for God in all things.

– I am alive.  My wife is alive.  And nothing, not even the eventual passing of our bodies cannot snatch us out of God’s hands.  And you know, that must frustrate Satan to no end.

As I type this, my daughter is laying on the sofa wrestling with her stomach bug.  My wife is battling a migraine headache.  My house is a mess.  None of us have gotten much sleep.  And the demands of life press on.  The spiritual attacks will continue.  They may even get worse.  But I’m learning the best thing to do when Satan hits you below the belt is to hit him back.  Hit him back by not letting him take away your faith, your love for God and others, and your strength to press on.  Because in the grand scheme of God’s design and salvation, Satan’s fate is determined and, ultimately, all his gnashing of teeth and hatred for us is just noise.

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Comments
  1. THE J-Mo says:

    Yes, definitely a challenging week for lots of folks. Your mom looks to have the support of a big network of friends and family. Growing up and then living in that community is nice in that a good number of friends are lifelong ones from WAAAAY back.

    Hope the kids recover soon. Stomach bug’s are messy.

    Glad I was able to make it over for everything this week. I wouldn’t have changed a thing except for maybe being a few lanes over to the right while passing through Leeds.

  2. Kev – you are absolutely gifted in the way you write and think and provoke thought. I am honored to partner with you in ministry. This week I think we just let go – and let God and He showed his strength in our weakness. Your determination and courage through all of this has impacted me in a huge way. I am proud to call you my friend.

  3. Thanks a lot, dude… I can think of nowhere else I’d rather serve and no other group of people I’d be happier calling friends.

  4. […] This will be the first holiday season I’ve ever spent without my father. […]

  5. […] a bit discouraging at times to think about that.  But I keep reminding myself (as I blogged about previously) that Satan’s attacks, though painful and discouraging, are truly of no ultimate […]

  6. […] a bit discouraging at times to think about that.  But I keep reminding myself (as I blogged about previously) that Satan’s attacks, though painful and discouraging, are truly of no ultimate […]

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