Yesterday, a very dear and beloved friend to me and my family was taken from this life. He had battled with Leukemia for several years, and later developed Diabetes. But the illness that won the battle over his life was Pneumonia.
Pneumonia. It still boggles my mind that people die from this respiratory illness, but amazingly enough, many--especially the elderly--do. Ivan, also more fondly known as "Ike," was a major help in me landing my job as a Park Ranger and the Traverse City State Park Campground when I was around 20. It was a beautiful place, with good enough pay and great hours. Ike was my boss there. He was also very involved in Boy Scouts, along with my family.
Ike always had a tremendous heart for everyone. Each time I saw him, he wore compassion on his face and love in his every word. As time went on, I saw Ike less and less, as I moved away for different colleges, and then to begin my new married life. And every single time I went back home and had the pleasure of running into him somewhere, it was always full of warm family embraces and meaningful words.
As I have been thinking about this, and feeling sad, of course, I have also been thinking about how tomorrow is Valentine's Day. The day of love; the day Ivan's wife will not have her valentine to snuggle up with. And while it will be a very hard day for her, I know she will see him again, as will I, and any other person who belongs in the Kingdom of Heaven. Ike was born again, and this is the best news. He is without Leukemia, without Diabetes, without Pneumonia, without pain. And the best part is Who he is with: Jesus.
So I thought about Valentine's Day, and love, and the loss of my friend, and these things blended together took me to a place that makes me understand just a bit more of this thing called life. Jesus showed the ultimate display of love: He died a horrific death for each one of us, because He loved us. Because God loved us, He sent His Son, Jesus, to die this death. They knew what had to happen. And all for a bunch of unworthy sinners. That is love.
I've also been listening to a podcast by Louie Giglio (tremendous anointing, you should check him out), from December 2010. In this particular teaching, Louie said something that changed me. "In God's economy, waiting is a very vital part of the process." And knowing that I have had some very dear loved ones pass along within the last five years, this gives me hope. Not only do I have hope that I will see these people again, but I have an even greater hope that through this waiting process, I am being shaped to be more like Jesus.
In everything I have seen and heard, it seems to me that God is patiently awaiting my maturity. And He is so gracious. Each moment in my life is a lesson. And thinking about love, thinking about Jesus, thinking about Valentine's Day, and thinking about Ivan, I know that many of us who are in mourning are in waiting. There is a secret training happening inside of our hearts right now, that is carving away the ugly, misformed parts--the parts ill-affected by sin--and uncovering the beauty that God has truly planted inside each of us.
So today, I honor you Ike, for the friend you were to me. And I thank You Father God, that You have rescued your son from his afflictions. My heart is currently split between the loss and the gain, but will soon resolve to be all for the gain. With love, your friend... Lauren