December 8, 2010
Christmas Can Be
By Mike McManus
ROME, Georgia --
Christmas is a joyous season, but not for everyone. It is lonely for people
who lost a spouse to death, and worse, if one has lost a child. No one
expects their child to die before them.
pain is held tightly within. However, last week at a conference at the
WinShape Center, Ron Deal, a noted author of books on stepfamilies, openly
shared his grief.
After coming home
from a movie, Ron and his wife found their son, Connor, 12, was quite sick.
Ron took him to a Walk-in Clinic which diagnosed croup, and gave him
antibiotics. The next morning Connor’s temperature was 104º and he could
barely stand. “Mom, I think I am going to die,” he said.
A doctor said he
had double pneumonia, and was put on a respirator which the boy kept pulling
off. In the dead of night they drove to a hospital in Dallas. He began to
respond before being hit with a septic infection, and died two hours later.
“That was 653
days ago,” Ron told us. “The valley of the shadow of death is a very dark
place. As a counselor who’s worked with families for years, I was
inadequate. My whole life is BEFORE and AFTER. Before, I thought church was
a place for hurting people. After my experience, I see most people running
from death. It scares people.
“I never prayed
for daily bread. I prayed for early retirement. Today I pray for daily
survival, every single day. …I had my plans, my goals. Never once did I
think this would happen. Kids graduate, get married and we have our first
“AFTER, I don’t
have any expectations. My youngest son noted 35,000 people were praying for
Connor, and asked me, `With so many praying, why didn’t God save him?’
“It’s a good
question,” Ron replied, “I’ll get back to you. I don’t know.”
“BEFORE I thought
a bad day was a flight delay, a flat tire. My definitions have been
recalibrated. I have had days digging my fingers into the grave saying, “I
want my son back.”
was a family day, a day for church. AFTER it is the worst hour of the week.
How can I sing and celebrate? How do we overcome the chasm of sorrow? There
are two different universes. BEFORE I weighed 15 pounds more, had no gray
hair, no bald spot. BEFORE I thought faith was the antidote, that we can
choose to be OK.”
Now Ron’s life
seems to be on two tracks: “One is hope and the other is sorrow upon sorrow.
One is called trust and the other is agony. One does not negate the other.”
Ron turned to the
Book of Job, a righteous man who suffered great losses, for insight. His ten
children were in a house that collapsed. Job is covered with sores and his
wife says, “Curse God and die.” He replies, “Shall we accept good from God,
and not trouble?”
in Chapter 31 he says, “Let God weigh me in honest scales and he will know I
am blameless…Let the Almighty answer me.”
God responds in
Chapters 38-41, “I will question you and you will answer me. Where were you
when I laid the earth’s foundation? …Have you given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place?”
replies, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand.” Interestingly, God
restores Job’s wealth and gives him ten more children.
unsure what Job learned from his tragedy, says, “I need to know.”
He then told of
Pam Coburn, who lost a son 11 years ago, who has turned her grief into
rescuing children from being sold into slavery in Cambodia and in Ghana.
She invited Ron’s wife to Ghana, where she confronted a slave master and met
a woman who sold her own children. His wife rescued two of those kids, and
told them, “You are safe now.”
The boys, aged 6
and 8, named themselves, Gideon and Vincent. Two girls who had been raped
before being rescued, called themselves, “God’s Asking” and “God’s Way.”
wife took shirts with Connor’s name to an orphanage, and sent back pictures
of kids wearing their new Connor shirts.
Suddenly, Ron had a new insight, “When we do things in Jesus’ name, don’t
you think the Father loves it. I know He does. Before, I did not. Now I
hope from his wife’s service. The only answer to tragedy is to love others
as Jesus loved us.