Easter morning started out with all the regular joy and promise.
The littlest one stole candy while the bigger ones weren’t looking.
There was the mad dash to find lost socks so we could make it to church on time.
There was the usual talk of the life given as ransom for many and the resurrection power.
There was nothing at all unexpected about the day until the moment I pulled my phone out to take a picture of our quintessential Easter and noticed the text still pinned to the face of my phone. I saw only two words of the text as I was swiping it away, grandpa and passed. My heart sank and I felt sick with shock. I didn’t need to see anymore of the text, I knew.
Grandpa Clark was the very picture of ginormousness and gentleness when I was a girl. We two had a special connection. He was the big, burly man and I was the petite, precocious child that could wrangle him around her finger. He was always warm with me, always inviting me in.
I was careful to sit still on his lap until the commercials came on, then I had permission to try to take his glasses off his face and he would respond with a growl, pretending he was going to chew my fingers.
He would spin tales for me, stories of shooting up mailboxes and befriending Indians. He taught me Native American beading, just as he had been taught.
He was my champion, killing and cooking the vile rooster that had knocked me down in the dirt.
A few years into my marriage I realized that, while most women will marry a man like their father, I had married a man like my grandpa. A man who worked hard to provide for his family. A man who would wait another month for the new boots he desperately needed so that he could buy his daughter the dress she desperately wanted.
A good man of noble character who loved both quietly and fiercely.
Yet of all the wonderful things that I could tell you about my grandfather, it is what I can’t say that troubles me.
I can’t say my grandpa was a Christian.
I remember with clarity the last time I talked to my grandpa about my faith. We were sitting in the car, he in the front seat, me sitting back center. Grandma was inside the doctor’s office. Even then he was tired and his mind was not as it once had been. Feeling unusually bold I asked him- What do you think about God?
He gave a dismissive reply, then seemed to get more thoughtful. He admitted he didn’t know about God. He thought God must exist, but didn’t know what that meant for him. He supposed God was up there, just watching.
I wanted to press further, but felt I shouldn’t.
In that moment, nearly 3 years ago, my heart was troubled and I started praying. His health had already been deteriorating by then and was getting steadily worse. I knew his time left was limited. My prayer was fairly simple really, God don’t take him until he’s had the opportunity to believe fully in you.
For 3 years I have prayed. For the last 12 months I have felt guilty for praying, having a sickening sense that my prayer was prolonging his suffering. He was in pain. His mind had given way to dementia. He was angry. He was afraid. He was weak and bitter and sometimes mean. He was lost and confused and smaller somehow. Humiliated. He was not the man I once knew. And here I was, praying that he would continue to live, knowing what that meant for him.
But I also knew what death would mean, and so I pressed on.
At this moment, sitting here in the fullness of my youth, listening to the sounds of life and laughter around me… I confess I do not know if my prayer was answered. I don’t know if my grandpa died knowing the possibility of eternal life in Christ. I just don’t know.
But I have my suspicions…
Resurrection Sunday. Of all the days on the calendar my grandpa passed away peacefully on Resurrection Sunday. The day I celebrate the empty tomb is the day that God chose that I would remember my grandpa. I am certain that not a single Easter will come that I won’t think of Grandpa. And the prayer I made. And feel some sort of peace about both.
Friends, I have seen too much in my 36 years to believe that this could be coincidence. No, this can be nothing short of a miracle, a message, a promise.
Noah got a rainbow, we get an empty tomb. HE IS RISEN!
Are you praying for someone? Are you standing in the gap, longing for someone to believe in the sacrifice of Christ, to receive the fullness of new life? Don’t stop. Don’t doubt even for a moment. Your prayers are heard. Your prayers are received. Your prayers will be answered.
I don’t think there can be any higher calling than to pray for the salvation of others. If you are praying for a loved one I would like to join you. Please leave me a comment or send me an email so that I can pray with you.
Father in Heaven, we are so grateful for your grace and mercy. We are so grateful for the unconditional love you pour out over us, the way you bless us with your favor. Father, I pray for all those faithful women who are praying that their loved one would come to receive salvation through Jesus Christ. Answer them quickly, Lord. Give them peace and determination as they wait on You to do what only You can do. Strengthen their faith. Draw near to them as they draw near to you. In Jesus name, Amen.