Today would have been my brother’s 46th birthday. I would have been calling him on the phone early this morning, telling him how old, how gray and how wrinkly he was getting. And he would have thrown it right back at me. That had been our tradition for almost twenty years…
But instead, I am celebrating my second Hope Day.
One year ago today (our first birthday without him), I remember sitting on my couch wondering how we were going to get through this day. How do you “celebrate” a birthday of someone who is no longer? I began to read out of Ann Voskamp’s advent Christmas book, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas and I was smacked in the face with it.
December 11 was entitled, “A Scarlet Lifeline of Hope”. In this chapter, Ann said this, “The God who can reveal Himself wherever, whenever to whomever; the God who is never limited by lack or restricted to the expected; the God who is no respecter of persons but the relentless rescuer of prodigals; the God who gives the gift of faith in the places you’d most doubt. That is always the secret to the abundant life; to believe that God is where you doubt He can be“.
Hope. Up until this point, I didn’t have a lot of it. I had only a thread. Allow me to explain…
After my brother’s death, I remember waiting, waiting for someone to tell me that I would see him again and that I would get to spend eternity with him. But I didn’t hear it and I was left waiting.
During the weeks between his death and his birthday, I had really been struggling with the fear that I would never see my brother again. It wasn’t the suicide that left me with this feeling of hopelessness. By God’s mercy I had “happened upon” an article about Rick Warren’s son four months before my brother’s death that had shed light for me on topic of suicide. Suicide, in my opinion, is a decision made while in a very deep and dark place and I don’t believe God judges us over one decision, especially a decision made in a moment of despair and desperation; in a moment of hopelessness.
I didn’t have a lot of hope because the last few years of my brother’s life, he didn’t appear to be living the lifestyle of one who wanted to be saved. And Satan used this to take away my hope.
But I was left with a thread.
An ornament I made last year in memory of my brother, David.
Randy Roberts, pastor of the Loma Linda University Church and, most of all, a friend of my brother, offered me this… “God doesn’t define us by our darkest hour or our worst decisions.” And this,”God will be looking for EVERY possible way to have David in heaven, NOT to keep him out”. These words gave me my thread of hope.
God is our father! What would it take for an earthly, sin-filled, imperfect parent to keep their child out of their family? I know for myself, I would try EVERY possible way to have my child remain a part of our family. So why wouldn’t our perfect Father God, with all of His love and mercy, do the same for my brother, for someone you love?
My brother didn’t appear to be living the lifestyle of one who wanted to be saved… But is that what God expects? A lifestyle? Is that what will save us? I don’t believe it is.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I do believe when we ask Jesus into our lives we become more and more like Him. But I don’t believe that God will judge us on what other people see. He judges us on our hearts. He wants to know we want to spend eternity with Him. I believe there are two roads in life. We either choose to walk the road to Christ, or we choose to walk away. And I believe that all He requires is a foot on that road leading to Him.
And I believe my brother had his foot on this road.
Photo credit to Heather (double rainbow a few days after my brother’s death)
I know for myself that some moments I feel further along this road and other moments I feel like I’ve only just begun. God doesn’t expect perfection; He wants only a heart for Him.
It wasn’t until March of last year that God reminded me of the ways that David expressed a desire to know God and my thread of HOPE strengthened even more. But I will share that story another time.
So that morning, one year ago today, after reading this chapter, I realized that one thread of hope from God is all that I needed. One thread of Hope is strong enough.
And that is when I decided that December 11, would forevermore, be my Hope Day.
So today, I’m sitting on my chair with David’s prayer quilt on my lap, my brother’s old sweatshirt on, celebrating Hope. On this day of my brother’s birth, there may be tears, but I don’t have to be sad.
This quilt was given to me by our dear quilting team at our church.
Because I have Hope; and not just any old thread of it. I have the Hope of Jesus. Who came down to this earth as a Babe and then died on the cross for all of our sins. Jesus’s thread is thick and it’s strong and it’s unbreakable.
He turns my thread into a rope. A rope of Hope.
It’s because of His birth, because of His death, that we all have HOPE. Will you celebrate that Hope with me?