Saturday, July 25, 2009


To say it was a stressful week would be quite an understatement, both at the TH and at Carswell. More about that another time. But far and away the most unnerving event last week was that my nephew Matthew, a fairly novice driver and the oldest employee at the TH (not the eldest, mind you!), totalled his mother's car ...

He had been coming home from a party, hit gravel unexpectedly and instinctively slammed on the brakes. The car flipped, end over end, three times before coming to rest in a field. Matthew had the presence of mind to extricate himself from the crushed vehicle and to run across the field, blood pouring from his head, to a nearby farmhouse where he was able to contact his mom to pick him up and where the people kindly called the hospital telling them to expect him. He escaped with a severe gash to his skull, plus cuts from glass in one hand.

When the police found the car next morning, they actually searched for a body in the field nearby. No one should have survived that accident.
On Sunday morning my Dad spoke in the tiny church in Penhold. The text he chose was from Psalm 22, and his sermon was entitled Alone.
He talked about how David's state of mind when he penned these words was akin to that of a pendulum, swinging between his faith and his feelings. Even the superscription of this song, dedicated to the Chief Musician, is telling: "Upon Aijeleth Shahar" - translated "where darkness and morning meet" ... the darkest moments of the entire day's cycle.

I couldn't help but think of Matthew, spinning, suspended, flipping back and forth in this terror ride in the moments between darkness and dawn, beseeching himself -- or God -- "Don't die ... don't die ..." feeling utterly alone and helpless in those slow-motion movements.

King David begins the Psalm with the words, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" Interesting, Dad said, that these also were almost the last words uttered by Jesus on the cross as He hung suspended, about to die. Significant, too, that the answer, the conclusion to this soul- searching question from David is finally supplied in the echo by Jesus centuries later.

Dad followed each upswing and downstroke of the pendulum as David struggled between despair and hope, between feeling and faith, between "He trusted in God that He would deliver him; let Him deliver him, seeing he delighted in Him" - words immortalized in Handel's Messiah as the crowd spits out their scorn - and "Be not far from me, for trouble is near ..."

Dad concluded by saying that we would do well to view the vicissitudes of life in light of grace and of the entire story; to examine the whole picture; to trust that God has only the best for us in mind.

In light of the entire story, the very last words of Jesus on the cross were "It is finished!" -- not a cry of despair or rejection or questioning, but a cry of triumph. The job had been done; the work was completed; the whole picture could now be revealed.

And then Dad brought in the story of Matt's accident and filled us in on the whole picture. Matt himself should have been killed; but he walked away from that car.
The rest of the story involves a friend of Matt who had ridden to the party with him and was supposed to drive back with him too. At the last minute, the friend said that he wanted to stay at the party and would find another way home.

The next day, after Matt's cell phone had been retrieved, he found a message from his friend - left just after the accident had occurred - saying he had changed his mind; could Matt come back and pick him up? If that young man had been in the car, he would unquestionably have been killed.

There is another layer to this story too: just around the time that Matt and his friend were supposed to leave the party, the friend's dad woke up and felt constrained to pray for his boy - right at the time that the boy decided not to head back to town with Matthew. God answered the prayer of a father for his son: the passenger side of the car was obliterated.

And yet, Dad pointed out, even if there had been two funerals that week, God would still be there; God would still care. We would have to try to sift through the tragedy to find evidence of the whole story, the greater picture; but it would be revealed in due course.
The server in the picture you see on the home page of this website is Matthew. He is a valued member of our tea house family, a treasured part of our Ironside family, and a priceless part of God's family. This child has endured much in his seventeen years; and yet he prevails. He has been a gift to our family from the moment of his conception. His life is a story that is being crafted and woven and illustrated and edited all the time. I am so deeply grateful that he is still with us. The moments of darkness before dawn would have seemed interminable had we lost him.
Matthew was not alone, and we are not alone, even in the impenetrable moments just before the breaking of the day.

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