In setting out to write this book, I wanted to introduce you to my sweet Bronner. He was only two-and-a-half when he went to Heaven. I never say “died” because I don’t feel that he has. I truly see him as going on to another place. Bronner didn’t cease to exist. He has been transported to another land, distant and mysterious in that I have never been there before nor can I go there right now and haven’t even the vaguest idea when I might be able to go there, but also the most assured of places in that I am certain of the way and long for it like no place on earth.
Heaven has my heart, my citizenship, my baby, and my God. It is the Land of the Living and the Kingdom of Light. In contrast, earth is the land of the lost and of the dying. Bronner has been found and taken to the truest place, the best place, a place many will never find even though the Lord God specifically said, “Seek and you will find.” Many people seek God in a way that is only palatable to their own desires. They want God to be who they want Him to be, not who He really is, and so they never find the real, true God. Many people find God’s ways offensive, harsh, arrogant even. But, when you seek God for who He truly is, you’ll find that He is magnificent.
In times of tragedy, grief, or despair, some people grow so angry with God that they turn away from Him completely, but in the turning away, they are showing faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) They believe in God, but what they are doing in turning away from Him is saying, “I don’t like you. I don’t like your methods, and I don’t want anything to do with a God who would… fill in the blank.” What they are doing is REJECTING GOD.
When my life’s great test came to me, I already knew God in an intimate way. I called Him my father, my savior, my teacher, and my friend. He had walked me through many lesser trials before. This time He was going to have to carry me, and I trusted Him to do that. Why? Because… I knew Him to be good. God’s goodness and mercy had already been poured out by the bucketfuls upon this wretched creature called me. By the time I stood in that baptistery at Lakeview Baptist Church in Oxford, Alabama at the age of 25, I already had a quarter century’s worth of sins to wash away, but as I stood there wearing a robe of white, I felt God’s Spirit moving upon me with healing in His wings. And, as Brother Jerry lowered me down underneath the water, my former life was vanquished. “Buried with Christ.” Hidden. Covered. Washed and cleansed of the former life. “Rising to new life in Him.”
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I was a new bride at that time, figuratively and literally, having married my husband, Rick, just two months prior. I was also a new mom of sorts. Rick had been married before, for a short time, but it had been long enough to produce two children, Brandi and Blake. They were there at my baptism. They were five and six years old on that day, April 21, 1996. They were there again at that same small church when their little brother, Brooks, was being dedicated to the Lord. We all stood together in a circle as Brother Jerry anointed him with oil and as we all promised to help raise him in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
It was in that little church in the small Alabama town where Rick spent most of his childhood and where he graduated from high school that God would anchor Himself to our family, holding us and keeping us close to His bright shores. It was there in a Bible study called “The Mind of Christ” that I had been amazed at the discovery that the Bible contains ALL the answers. As a child, I remember looking up into the sky and wondering, “Where are you, God?” “Can you see me?” “Why can’t I see you?” “Do you love me?”
I found out just how much. And, as our family continued to grow in the fear and admonition of the Lord, adding Brody, and then Bronner, my heart began to overflow with the joy of the Lord. I was soaring on the wings of an eagle. I had tasted and had seen that the Lord was good. He was very, very good.
And, then came January 19, 2008 shooting me like a shotgun right out of the sky. No more soaring. I wasn’t even standing. I wasn’t even on ground level. I was in a pit, deep and dark, but I was still holding on to someone’s hand. It was the hand of the ONE who had lifted me up out of darkness once before, the hand of HE who had HIMSELF knit me together in my mother’s womb, the hand who had spoon fed me the truth of John 3:16 but who was now going to feed me the meat and the bread and the wine of 1 Peter 4:1-2.
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”
None of this was going to be easy. I had been torn from my baby. He was ripped away from me, and it wasn’t a clean break. After all that goodness, Lord, what are you doing? Why? We had been so happy! Our family was SO happy! And, we were doing all that you had asked of us! My goodness! Rick was speaking at a youth retreat when it happened! Weren’t we giving enough? Now, You’re going to take our baby?
I needed some answers, so I jumped in the ring and wrestled it all out with God. I wasn’t going to let go of Him until He answered me, until I could make some sense of this whole matter. Well, here I am, LORD, still standing in the ring, but instead of wrestling with You, I’m here to tell YOUR story. The story of how You took me deeper and higher and further with You than I ever thought possible.
At the end of Job’s struggle with the LORD, he said, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you…”
Through suffering, Job learned. He grew. He saw God in a new way, the way of reverence and awe. When we come face to face with the POWER of the ONE who created all things and through Whom all have their life and breath and being, we begin to see things as they really are, not through those rose-colored glasses I threw away long ago.
TRUTH. That’s what I wanted. That’s what I got. That’s what I have to tell.
God has always taught us through stories, through the lives of ordinary human beings. Here’s mine. It isn’t tidy or fun or sweet or cute. But, it’s mine, and it’s Bronner’s. Someone might say he “died” for this story. I hope it will mean something to you.