With a devastating end to an already difficult 2020, the timing of our family’s escape was more than a nice coincidence. It was ordained. As if God Himself orchestrated the details and caused it to happen precisely when and how it did. From beginning to end, God has been near, speaking truth in my ear and making His presence known. (Psalm 139) I have felt your prayers.
Word for 2021
Before and after the shocking death of my brother Doug on Christmas eve, I’ve been contemplating a word for 2021. During times of both plea-ful praying and angry ranting, the word that keeps surfacing is BELIEVE. And each day I’ve considered the word as my compass, something has happened to reinforce how appropriate it is. Like a diamond being held up to the light, it has a million facets. I suspect it will take weeks and months to fully appreciate what the Holy Spirit has for me with this word as my escort through 2021. For starters, virtually everything hinges on belief. Death versus life.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And it’s that very place that the enemy has tried to gain a foothold, haunting me with questions about my brother’s salvation.
History with my brother Doug
My brother Doug and I grew up together. He was smarter, more handsome, more popular and in my childhood memory better than me in every way. One class behind him, I hid in his shadow.
At State College High School in the 70s band kids were cool. (You’ll have to trust me.) Doug played sax in the jazz band, but it was his stint as high-stepping drum major that drove a social wedge between us. Adding to his popularity, he owned the coolest car on campus, a red 1954 Desoto. I was a mediocre flute player, better at twirling my instrument than actually playing it. For self-preservation, this was the era when my eye-rolling sibling disinterest took root. I tired of kids wanting access to my brother through me. My identity felt stuck as Doug’s ugly-duckling pest of a sister.
We both attended Penn State but went in opposite directions. Doug was the socially confident Acacia frat boy who never wavered from his pursuit of medicine. In contrast even though determined to get all A’s, I was the awkward stress case, unsure what to pursue academically and fearful of the college social scene.
Doug stayed in his lane and became a hugely successful and loved orthopedic surgeon, right on schedule. And even though my path was not straight, I found my niche in college too — campus ministry and a heart for Jesus seeking adventure as an international marketing major.
The Hardest Truth…
Sure I have regrets. There was too much left un-said. And I mourn the loss of what could have been. But the hardest truth of Doug’s passing is that I don’t know where he stood with the Lord. To read the condolences from so many who loved him, I’m moved. His character and the impact he had on his patients and community is inspiring. And even though he would humbly deny the accolades, it gives me pause. Doug was a great man.
After Ian’s accident, my relationship with Doug deepened dramatically. More than a brother, he had an inside track to my mother’s heart and listened to my angst and advised where appropriate. Not one for much small talk, we always got right to the heart of the matter. Call day or night Doug offered. And no question was off limits. We discussed subjects not typically or comfortably discussed. Life and death medical decisions, quality of life judgements, and even eternity and God.
Black and White vs. Color
We sometimes disagreed, but respected one another. Our conversations while comforting, tested me. He saw black and white and statistics and the rational limitations of medicine. Desperate for an alternative, I saw color and had a name for the vast chasm, faith. What I remember most about that season, was Doug’s compassion and kindness. He made it clear he would have done anything for Ian, me and what we faced. If only money could fix a brain injury.
But now that Doug is gone, it is as if the color is gone. And I’m saddened and even angered over a heart full of black and white. But slowly and surely, as I’ve believed God at His word, the Holy Spirit has been adding color.
Genesis 18:25 …Will not the judge of all the earth do right.
John 20:29 …”Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Right End to the Story
The way I understand it, instead of demanding evidence I can see, God is asking me to trust His unchanging character and believe Him for the right end of the story. I can’t see or know everything God can see and know. And salvation isn’t a neat and tidy formula.
I take comfort in the fact that the door of repentance is kept wide open. Remember the penitent thief crucified beside Jesus? In his last breath, he believed Christ and was promised paradise. (Luke 23:42) Hope is alive.
God’s Got This Too
Please don’t misunderstand… I don’t take faith in God lightly and salvation is by grace alone through faith, not by works. (Ephesians 2:8,9) But ultimately, God’s Got This too. The God Doug learned about from our faithful parents and weekly church attendance, the God who loves Doug more than I or any human could. The God who is all knowing, all gracious and all merciful is the final judge. I believe He’ll get it right.
Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”
A New Faint Picture
When we choose to believe, it is then we see. Thankfully, while it still hurts, with the help of the Holy Spirit, a faint picture has formed. My Daddy, with his warm welcoming ear to ear grin, is showing Doug around the place. Together they revel in a new colorful reality of perfect love. No sin or suffering, no sorrow or pain. Doug’s questions have been satisfied and I see contentment on his face.
Believing is Seeing
Ironic isn’t it…seeing isn’t believing. Rather it’s the other way around. Believing is seeing. “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”
Dear Merciful Father, I praise you for the gift of eternal life. Forgive me for my need for evidence. Cause me to trust your character which keeps hope alive. Help me to believe so that I’m able to see. Thank you for my brother Doug and how his life impacted mine. May this tragic loss not be wasted. Amen.
For His Glory, Debbie Hucke