Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sprouting Up In My Heart

Over the last few years, the word “resurrection” has taken on new meaning for me.  To be sure, the concept of the resurrection has always been happy… but vague.  In the past, thoughts of the resurrection brought to mind non-specific images of the paintings you might see in a church or during an evangelistic series – beautiful but distant; full of people I don’t know.

When I think of the resurrection now, I don’t see these paintings anymore.  I see the faces of those I have known and loved, who have been laid to rest in the ground.  I see specific people, specific faces beaming with joy in the light of the Second Coming.  I see Marissa, a seven-year old girl I met maybe once or twice while visiting my brother-in-law and sister’s school. 

But the last time I went to visit, Marissa’s absence was decidedly pronounced.  I was there the week after her funeral.  Her desk was still there, with a bouquet of flowers on top – not to replace her, but to remind us of what can never be replaced.  There were piles of letters from friends and strangers offering comfort and encouragement, but you could still feel the weight of the shadow of death hanging in the air.  In the back of the classroom, the students’ prayer requests were taped to the wall… heartbreaking requests for God to “help us with our sadness.”

And there was sadness. Much sadness.  I found tears in my eyes often.  The sorrow was only outweighed by one thing: love.  Not just love for Marissa, but her love for each of them.  Her love lingered still.  It was a seed planted in each of their hearts, still growing despite her absence. 

I flipped through a scrapbook filled with index cards the students had written on, describing their favorite memories of Marissa.  So many heartwarming stories about this girl who, like the morning mist, had only graced this world for a moment.  More than one student said Marissa was a best friend.  But it was not primarily her close friends that cut me to the core.  I began to notice a pattern appearing: student after student mentioned how Marissa had played with them – a high compliment in the world of elementary school.  Several students mentioned how she had played with them when no one else would or how she talked to students that no one else wanted to hang out with.  And I thought, “They will know we are Christians by our love…” 

Her love was not selective, but pervasive.  Offered to all out of the overflow of her own heart, out of her relationship with Jesus.  This was not just the concept of love; it was real love that really mattered and made a difference to those who experienced it. I suspect that the seeds she planted will not cease to grow.  And I found that I, too, had a seed sprouting up in my heart.  The simplicity and depth of her short life has forever convinced me of one thing: a legacy does not require many years, but instead much love.

I can’t wait to meet her when she wakes up on that resurrection morning.  I can’t wait for her to see how the love she left behind has grown and spread beyond anything she could imagine.  In her death, she has added to the life waiting to burst forth on that great day. 

With every passing year, every passing person, the weight of death becomes fuller.  The pressure grows, like a spring being slowly compressed.  Only the resurrection will release the tension.  The earth groans, too.  It trembles like a chrysalis: full, ready.  Soon we will meet in the air.  Even so, come Lord Jesus.


Since I began writing this, my great-grandmother, Tai Tai, has also fallen asleep in Jesus.  She was 96 years old, but I find that even so, her legacy is also one built not upon years, but upon love.  Her beautiful face is now also among those that come to mind when I picture the resurrection.

It seems like there have been a lot of deaths lately, though I guess death has been abundant for quite a while now.  I think of my Grandpa Vanderlaan and my Aunt Teresa.  But I also think of those I don’t know.  I think of the boy from Collegedale Academy.  I think of the multitudes across the face of this earth who are laid to rest in the ground every day.  The earth truly groans.  And so I say it again: even so, come Lord Jesus.