I had the privilege of closing my father’s memorial service Tuesday, August 22, 2017, 11:00 am in the Boyce Chapel of First Baptist Church, Columbia, SC (where I was ordained in 1990). Here’s what I said:
Albert Einstein said, “When the answer is simple, God is speaking.” Dad had a way of sharing wisdom in simple one-liners or statements that stuck with you [like the one’s Hub Blankenship shared in his message: “The only difference between work and play is attitude,” and “A job half done is a job to be done.”] My statement today is CONTRAST: God’s greatest teacher.
The earth works for God to awaken the curiosity, mystery, wonder, understanding, and longing for the eternal.
We are seated in Boyce Chapel with friends but also “with Christ in God.”
What we see is temporary; what is unseen is eternal.
“Momentary, light affliction is producing an eternal weight of glory”
“The outer man is decaying, yet the inner man is being renewed.”
“The perishable must put on imperishable.”
Jesus said: “It is good that I go away…for I will send a Helper.” [Which Hub referred to, revealing in Greek the word comfort and Helper are the same—parakletos—one called alongside. Comfort is more than a feeling, it is a Person!—the very presence of God.]
In our mourning we discover truest comfort.
In our loss we discover our completeness.
In our grief we discover everlasting joy.
In our anxiety we discover the One who is our perfect peace.
In our weakness we discover the source of strength.
In having nothing we discover we possess all things.
Mortality puts on immortality.
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” Death may have Dad. But Victory has Death. So where is Dad? In Victory!
Dad is with the Lord as the Lord is with us.
Dad awoke in victory at 5:15 am, Friday, August 18, 2017, the same morning I had asked friend and pastor of Hope Point Church, Richard Smith, to join InYou Men at 6:30 am at the Wellhouse to pray for and anoint me with oil. What a precious time and we asked for healing and affirmed God’s presence and the call of Isaiah 61:1-3 on my life. (We also prayed over the literal chain fence just concreted in along the Wellhouse driveway to block our ability to park!—a literal “offence” to the ministry of spiritual healing. Pray with us for the change of heart of the lady who had it installed and the legal issues involved.)
After the anointing, I attended my final physical therapy session for the torn meniscus surgery on my left knee, and Kelli and I left for Atlanta to meet a multi-disciplinary committee of doctors (oncologist, radiologist and surgeon) at Emory concerning treatment options for my prostate cancer. Knowing my sisters and brother were with Mom (and Dad was with the Lord), we decided to keep the long-awaited appointment. The day after the funeral, I traveled to Knoxville, TN, to care for Chase as he underwent surgery to repair a 70% ligament tear of his right hamstring.
With time to be still on the back porch of Chase’s apartment in Pigeon Forge as he rested, I reflected on the “perfect peace” I was experiencing through some fairly major events over the past month or two. Since my parents accident, the “Wolfe pack” (six children) had to work together to be with and drive for Mom and make numerous decisions about Dad’s health care (which included moving him to Restorative care, physical therapy, and back to the hospital where the most difficult of decisions was made to no longer sustain his life). My brother Rigba and I also hunted down and purchased a used vehicle for mom.
The contrast of cancer and a car wreck, surgeries and consults for cancer treatment (“choose your poison” I call it), death and deadlines on jobs with the ever-present peace of God was profoundly felt. In fact, the moment after Mom signed papers in the hospital for Dad’s hospice, she prayed that Dad would be at peace. She went immediately to his side and heard him singing the words “When peace like a river attendeth my way…” from the song It Is Well With My Soul. Coincidence?!
The Scripture is clear. “What is seen is temporary. What is unseen is eternal.” “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things on earth.” God is using, not fighting, this world to bring us to Himself. He uses contrast so we can see His hand clearly in the midst of our difficulties. He is near to the broken-hearted. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”
Every day we take one step in the troubles of this life and the next step in heavenly places in Christ. One step in what is TRUE (we’re not in denial of the stark realities of this life) and the next step of faith in the TRUTH (we’re not blind to the ultimate Reality in Christ)! True, Truth, true, Truth…this is how we walk; by faith and not by sight. One day we will see perfectly while now only in part. One day we will know just as we have been fully known. Jesus in the NOW is enough. In this we have growing confidence. The contrast is God’s greatest teacher.