On my last blog entry, I gave you Romans, Chapter 8 to ponder and consider for yourself, because that Chapter of the Holy Bible has had a profound influence in my life. I hope it will in yours as well. It was Romans, Chapter 8 that taught me how to go on after my child, my baby, went to heaven without me. I was studying Romans 8 in Community Bible Study when our tragedy happened, a gift, more than a gift, an explanation for what had happened.
Unknowingly, I had been living a double life before Bronner went to heaven. I lived for God, but I also lived for myself. True, I attended bible study every week. I taught Sunday school. I sent my children to a Christian School where I was a very active parent. But, the flesh has a strong pull, as do the things of the world. God made me see through Romans, Chapter 8 that life in the flesh and lived for the desires of the flesh and the pleasures of the world brings death, and, in fact, is death itself, because any life lived not according to the Spirit of God isn’t life at all.
The morning after my darkest night I laid on my couch in shock and horror and disillusionment. I tried to read my bible searching for answers, but I couldn’t read. I physically couldn’t do it. My eyes couldn’t focus on the page. My stepdaughter, Brandi, came and sat on the other end of the couch. She didn’t know what to say, but she was there. So, I handed her my bible and asked her to read Romans, Chapter 8 to me, and she did.
When she finished, I asked her to read it again, so she did. And, when she finished the second time, I said, “Again. Read it to me again.” I wanted to hear it over and over again, because in it were answers, lots of answers. It told me that God wasn’t condemning me. He hadn’t taken my baby out of judgment or punishment for some sin, because He tells me in the very first verse of that chapter that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
And then it said, “Don’t set your mind on things of the flesh but on the things of the Spirit.” My baby was now spirit. He was no longer flesh. He was in heaven with God. And heaven became so much more real to me. I knew Bronner. I knew what he looked like. I had touched him and kissed him and loved him. I knew he was real. I just couldn’t see him anymore. And, that made me realize that God and heaven and everything the bible talks about was just as real as Bronner had been to me the day before.
We get so caught up in our lives here on earth even as Christians that we think that heaven is so far away. We know that it’s coming someday, but it seems so distant to us and even unimportant. Isn’t what I’m doing right now for God what I should concentrate on? Maybe, but never forgetting to eagerly await and hope for the glory that is to be revealed to us at the second coming of Christ. God was taking me to a new awareness and a deeper understanding of Himself, of heaven, and what my life’s focus should really be about.
I had thought that because I was Christian, I was exempt from pain and suffering. Stupid, I know, because there’s nothing in scripture that indicates that. I just thought I was protected and blessed and special. I really felt special to God. Sometimes, I felt like it was just me and God and that’s it. I still don’t understand how He can have such a personal relationship with me, so real that I can feel His presence, and have that with so many others as well. God is so incomprehensible even as we learn more and more of Him. He is magnificent and giant and so far above us that His omnipresence and omniscience and eternal nature are almost unfathomable to us.
But, here in Romans 8:16-17, I am hearing something very different from what I had thought before, and if you don’t pay close attention, you might miss it the first time around. I had. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Did you catch it? “provided we suffer with him” If we are truly children of God, then we will suffer, and if we want to inherit with Christ the earth when God makes it new again, we will follow the Lamb wherever He goes, and the Lamb was slain. I felt slain, stabbed right in the heart, broken, confused, with excruciating pain that no one could relieve. But these words were.
It says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Not worth comparing? Are you serious? That’s got to be good stuff for this not to even matter. But, I am learning that it is. I look forward to heaven and to Christ’s appearing in the clouds more than you can even imagine. I long for that day when I step into the gates of heaven. I pray for Christ’s quick return everyday. “Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly.” But with eager expectation, I wait with patience. This is exactly what it says to do. “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (vs. 23-25)
I pray every day for God to give me patience, to help me endure the absence of someone most precious to me. Everyday, I need help to get through the day, and God provides it. I miss my baby every single day, and it doesn’t get any easier. I had tasted life with Bronner, and I knew it to be good. I am keenly aware of what I’m missing out on, and it’s hard.
Every day is hard. Every one of them. So I need help from God. I have to have Him with me, or I couldn’t do it. I wake up every morning asking God for help. It’s usually a very short and direct prayer at my waking moment, “God, help me.” “God help me make it through today, because I want to be obedient to the work you have called me to and to be here for my other children and for my husband and for my friends, my church, and my family. But I need Your help. I cannot do it on my own.”
And He answers “Yes” everyday. So far. He promised He would, and He has. He says right here in Romans Chapter 8, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (vs. 35) “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.” (vs. 37)
So, I am not separated from God. And, with His Spirit, I can see Bronner. My mind’s eye still sees, and I even catch his scent from time to time. I feel that somehow, I’m already there. That what I see here right now on earth is the apparition, and what is real, what is really real, is there. It’s all there. My citizenship is in heaven with Bronner. My treasure is there. My hope lies in it. And more and more, I feel like a foreigner in my own country, like I really don’t belong here. But, I know that what is going on here right now matters for eternity, forever. I feel like this is my opportunity to work. There, I will be happy. There, I will be free. But, here, with my burdens laid down and my hope securely fastened around me, I do what God asks of me here in this world. He’s asked me to teach and to write and to go and to raise and to love and to help and show and to speak on His behalf. And, I count it a privilege, an honor, to serve my Lord.
I feel like a warrior, a soldier, going into battle where nothing is about pleasure or worldly gain but about justice and peace, defending the weak, helping the oppressed, teaching the lost, and bringing hope to those who have lost all hope. I think about America when she finally got into the war, World War II. She didn’t want to fight. This wasn’t her battle. She was at peace, but she saw that so many were not at peace, so many were being held captive, and so many were dying. So, she got in the game and did her part to free those in bondage and to bring about peace.
I believe that is why God has left me here, why He took my baby. It was so I would die to myself and live for others. He knew that I would. And in His infinite wisdom, He did what would have been unthinkable to a mere human, but His perspective is so much larger than ours. He sees the big picture, the future, and everyone, not just me and my happy family. I’ve learned that, yes, I am special to God. Yes, He loves me, but He loves so many others as well. He loves us all and desires a relationship with each person He created. It is His breath flowing through each of us that has given us life. He is our creator, not just mine, but everyone’s. So, He has chosen to use me and my family to bring others to Christ. And, I know because of Romans Chapter 8 that all of it is working together for good, because I love Him.
Romans Chapter 8 was read at Bronner’s graveside the day he was buried. Brandi read it that day, because I was still to weak to speak or to read, but I did read it on the 1st anniversary of his death standing at the wailing wall in Jerusalem surrounded by Jewish women shushing me. On that day, my feet were planted like the roots of a strong tree, and nothing or no one could stop me from reading that Chapter of the Bible even though many would have liked to it seemed. And as I read, I felt the power of its words grow stronger and stronger until it crescendoed into its paramount last verse, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, not things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”