For those of you who could not be with us at Southbrook today, here is what I said:
Nancy and I are grateful beyond words for the outpouring of love we have received from this church. We have been blown away at the response to Garren’s unfortunate injury. And it goes beyond just this church. Churches literally around the world are continuing to pray for Garren’s healing. Students and faculty at Porter Ridge, Piedmont, and many other schools have banded together in the most spectacular way to show support and love for Garren. It has been truly amazing to be at the center of this kind of love.
Many have made comments about how well we seem to be holding up. Let me tell you - this is probably the most stressful and emotional situation I’ve ever had to deal with personally in my life. It’s not easy. Many of you have been in similar situations, you know what I’m talking about. From the minute this began, we started praying. We took Garren to God immediately, laid him at Jesus’ feet, and poured our hearts out to Him.
There have been a couple of very close calls along the way, Garren shouldn’t be alive today. The fact that he is alive is evidence that God does answer prayers. God orchestrated a series of events as Garren arrived at the hospital and in the days following that could not have been planned out by us. God is good indeed.
Life can change in an instant. You’re next breath is not guaranteed.
So how is it that we are able to hold up so well through all of this? I had one of the nurses ask me, probably about 4-5 days into this, if we were taking the time to grieve. She must have thought we were still in shock, or denial. I love questions like that, because it opens the door for me to talk about the One who is carrying us through all of this. If you’ve been following our story on my blog, then you are reading first hand what is going through my head. I don’t hold much back. I was able to talk to that nurse about Abraham and Isaac. God told Abraham to take his only son to the top of a mountain, to build an altar, and to sacrifice him there. Abraham obeyed, without question. God said go and Abraham went. I told her that we truly believed that God could and would use this situation as a way to point people toward himself. And just as Abraham was obedient, and willing to offer his son to God, we too had given Garren over to God many years ago. We want to be used by God through this situation as He sees fit.
You see, for years Nancy and I have spent time in God’s Word, regularly, and in prayer, regularly. Over a period of many years we have learned to lean on God, to trust His ways. This isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s not something you decide to do one day and it magically happens. It takes years.
I’m signed up to run my second half-marathon in a couple of weeks. I ran my first one in December. I started officially training in August. I put together a training program, and worked my way up to being able to mostly run 13 miles without stopping or passing out! But in reality, my training started years before that. I learned how to walk when I was a toddler. I spent years playing, running, doing things that kids do. I played sports in high school. I got into cycling, and running, and then built on that foundation to complete a half-marathon. Now, I’m continuing to build on that foundation, and hopefully will be able to run this one, maybe just a little bit faster!
The point is, I didn’t just wake up one day, decide to run a marathon, and go to the start line. I wouldn’t have made it past the first mile.
It’s the same with our spiritual lives. We have to spend years working on our spiritual health. It’s a process. It takes time. It means reading and praying when we don’t necessarily feel like it. It means taking whatever hardships come your way and thanking God, seeking Him in the midst of it, keeping your eyes on Him, on the end goal, rather than on yourself and your own selfish, comfortable desires.
Many years ago, when our children were young, we committed them to the Lord. We agreed to raise them in a Godly way, knowing that ultimately they were on loan to us. They belong to the Lord. When something like this happens, it rips your heart out.
One of the things that we have done with our kids from very early on was to teach them the Bible. I’m not talking about just church. Church is good. Get your kids involved in our children’s ministry, or student ministry. Get your kids involved in serving, and in outreach. But above all of this - talk to your kids about spiritual things. Talk to them about the Bible. Read your Bible to them. Pray with them. No matter how strange or awkward it feels, you can’t afford to put it off.
Joshua 1:7-9 says "...be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good successt wherever you go.8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
We’re in the middle of this family series. “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Pastor Rob has some tough things for us to hear today. He has some truths from Scripture to teach us, and if we will heed God’s word, we will be successful - not success according to the world’s definition of success, but success in God’s eyes. Success in God’s eyes is “Be holy, because I am holy.”
None of us knows when it could happen to us. Nancy and I have peace knowing that Garren has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Garren is learning to be a follower of Jesus. I had the honor of baptizing him not to long ago. If God had chosen to take Garren, I have no doubt he would be playing football with Jesus today.
You have to make sure that you know where you will end up if you die today. You have to talk to you kids, make sure they understand. Don’t put it off. You are not promised another minute.
God has chosen to leave Garren in our care for now. But that doesn’t make it easier. Our road is a long one. We can’t see around the next bend. We have no idea what our future or Garren’s future looks like. Thousands have prayed and are continuing to pray for Garren’s complete healing and restoration. And we believe God for that. But it will take time. It could take years. Nancy and I are learning more and more each day the reality of what that means.
As a quick update on Garren - Friday Garren had his eyes open from around 3pm until nearly midnight. As I watched him, I could see him trying to move his legs. Very small moves, like he was trying to bend his knees. So awesome to watch.
We covet your continued prayer and support. We are so thankful for each one of you. We are so thankful to be a part of a church that is learning to act like the body of Christ.
Thank you all - we love you.