I saw this truth in a new light yesterday.
My neighbor Carol has become very dear to me over the past few years. It started with my husband plowing her driveway. He never charged her. This confused her. “Why would you do that?” He always said it was because he had a snowplow and she had a driveway that needed to be plowed. God loved her and so he loved her.
On one of these visits about four years ago she told him she had been diagnosed with stage 3-B breast cancer. That’s where my story with Carol starts. I went to find out how I could help. We prayed. We helped her pack and winterize her house as she decided to go to Washington and do a special diet among other alternative treatments.
She lived a lifetime of adventures. Mushing the Iditarod trail with a friend. Teaching English in China. Always studying and learning. I only got glimpses of her adventures, they were often overshadowed and forgotten by the battle to stay alive. She and a friend were planning a summer long float trip on the Yukon river when she was diagnosed.
She was full of paradox.
Carol was almost always cold yet one of her favorite memories and places was in the Alaskan interior with only her dog team at -40.
She didn’t want to be around people but she loved them, and as I recently learned was well loved by many.
She became so dear to me.
On many days of trying to help her and her not allowing me there was no reason for this love but the love of God Himself for Her. There were many days I didn’t want to go do another seemingly pointless task. God repeatedly reminded me I was serving Him, obeying Him so it didn’t matter if I thought it was pointless.
She went into hospice Thanksgiving weekend. God had been breaking down her isolation. The people serving and pouring into her were beginning to connect, to find out the others existed. Going into hospice really brought everyone together.
I was astounded to see the faithful believers God had placed in her life – for her whole life. I used to think, “How has she missed it all these years?”
She has come to know God’s love for herself. She has finally been able to forgive and let go of bitterness that she has carried for decades. It took her weakened physical state for her to gain spiritual strength and healing. People come to see her, send her cards, and call. New friends have been made, many of whom share God’s love for her.
Carol dreamed of having a home. Through complicated details I won’t explain she started one this summer. When she went into hospice they moved her to a friend’s house. She wanted to get her house finished enough she could go home. When she accepted Jesus’s forgiveness I realized God had a home for her. He hadn’t just started on it either. He knew she would be coming home.
I guess it is a living illustration of Romans 5:8. While Carol was denying his existence He was loving her. He was sharing with her the beauty of His creation. He was surrounding her with people who loved her with His love. People to love her and show her truth while she denied His existence for over 60 years.
I think it is His love that did not let her live in regret for wasted years. She is in heaven and knows only good and beauty. She can’t “what if?” or “if only”. She has no pain, no sorrow. She is at peace. I choose peace. I will celebrate.
One day she was talking about her life, everything falling apart. I saw God holding out His hand catching every piece. He was holding them to make something beautiful. At an informal service for Carol a pastor shared the verses he read to Carol just before she died.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
John 10:27-29King James Version
by Public Domainemphasis mine
My son had this picture for her.
He told her the message.
This is a picture I was given for you. You are in the black cloak. The black cloak is sin, unbelief, anything bad you have done and everything bad that has happened to you. The cloak blocks the beams of light, God’s love and forgiveness, from reaching your heart.
The man in white standing next to you is Jesus. He is waiting to take your cloak. Before He can take your cloak and give you His white robe of righteousness you have to ask Him to take it. He won’t ever force you to take it off. As soon as you are ready to take it off He will help you.
Removing the black cloak and putting on the white is submitting to Him without necessarily understanding it all.
Now I wish I had drawn her accepting Jesus’s offer. The reality that happened the Sunday before Christmas, her finally giving Him her guilt and shame. His glory shining in and transforming her. Transformation she felt during her last three weeks.Transformation went beyond her. Sisters who hadn’t talked in years reconnected. A neighbor was able to minister to Carol while her own sister suffers with cancer thousands of miles away, ministering to her heart where she had felt helpless.
God loves each one. Those who love Him and those who don’t.
I was so blessed to know Carol, to meet some of the people who loved her for years and for days, to love her myself.