When we don’t back away from the Lord, the enemy cannot win, for the Lord uses even the hardest things in our lives for good, turning ashes into beauty.
One of the hardest things for me was regret. Regret that I had not stopped speaking, that I ever left Steve during his illness. What could God do with that? It was too late.
But the enemy is a liar. I could walk in repentance. Though I couldn’t be with Steve, there were people I could be with. God gave me an opportunity the year after Steve died with my mother. She was failing, at 93, and I determined to seize days with her. My mother was confined to a wheelchair and had dementia. She couldn’t remember what happened the day before. Each day when I went to see her, she whooped in joy, as if she hadn’t seen me in six months.Mother loved to sing the hymns. We’d sing and sing and sing. But though she knew the hymns, I did not have confidence that she really knew Jesus.
That Easter, shortly after her 93rd birthday, my son J. R. visited her and read her the story of the resurrection. He said, “Do you believe this, Grandma?”
She said, “I don’t know, J. R.”
J.R. was so burdened he went back to our cottage and prayed and prayed, then returned, and shared his simple testimony with his grandmother. He asked, “Have you ever trusted Christ, Grandma?”
She said, “I don’t think I have. Would you help me?”
And J. R. led his grandmother, his grandmother with dementia, to the Lord.
I visited her shortly after that. Because of her dementia, she often forgot Steve had died. One day she asked, “Is Steve coming today?”
“I’m sorry, Mom. Remember? Steve died.”
“Oh!” She said, biting her lip. “Oh!”
Then, after a moment she said, “Dee Dee, I’m going to find you a husband.”
I smiled, wondering about her resources. “Mother, I don’t want another husband,” I paused. “I don’t think I even want a dog.”
She wrinkled her brow, pondering this. She nodded. “I don’t think I do either.”
“Oh Mom, ” I laughed, trying to picture her with either.
Then I squeezed her hand and said, “We have Jesus.”
“Yes,” she smiled, “We do.”
A few months later, Mother’s life was ebbing away. I pleaded with God to let me be with her when she died. The whole amazing story is in The God of All Comfort, but I will tell you He allowed me to be with her.I will never forget the moment when she looked up with a radiant face and the nurse in the room said to me, “Dee — look, the King is coming.” And He came and took her.
When Jesus came, He opened the scroll of Isaiah and read:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,
Because the LORD has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
1. Meditate on the above, going slowly, reading as a lover reads, contemplating the images. What are some of the ways Jesus can turn our ashes into beauty? What do you see in this passage?
2. Do you have regrets? Though you cannot undo the past, how can you walk in repentance now?
3. Give an example of how Jesus is turning your ashes into beauty.
Happy Mother’s Day to every physical and spiritual mother. And Happy Mother’s Day, Mother! It gives me enormous joy to know you are with Jesus, and filled with all that is beautiful.