Tag Archives: death

Library Encouters 

God does some incredibly strange and wonderful things, doesn’t He?

I wasn’t going to go to the library last night. I was in my room, softly playing my music, relaxing, and about to open my physics homework to take one more look before I called it a night. Being a person who normally doesn’t do homework in her room but instead goes to the library or finds an empty classroom on campus, it was weird that I was okay with staying in my room. But, the laziness, non-desire to deal with people, and the always overwhelming temptation to buy another cup of coffee I probably don’t need, made me want to stay. Until something inside me said, “go to the library. You have to do your work there.”

So, I packed up my backpack, made the 30 foot trek to the library, found a nice spot in the cafe (with the scent of coffee overwhelming me– which I didn’t give in to), and got to work. I was somewhere mid-physics problem when I ran into my friend Adam, with whom I have a 60/40 being mean/ being nice relationship, and we briefly talked about our lives and our work after quipping about how annoyed we were to see the other one in the often frequented library. I thought “was this the reason I came all the way over here? So I could hear Adam talk about his struggles of work and school and so I could tell him my brief anecdote about my grandfather going to seminary with Victor P Hamilton, the author of my Pentateuch textbook?” That seemed a little weird, because I could hear his struggles (and insert a sassy comment intermixed with encouragement) anytime, and a quick scroll through Facebook and he would have seen my grandfather anecdote. So, I continued working on my Physics homework, still not sure why I was there.

Then, I remembered I had to print my Calc weekly and my Pentateuch assignment. Was this the reason I felt a desire to come all the way out here? So I wouldn’t have to rush before class to print the assignment? Probably not. There’s printers in the building across from my dorm, I have an hour and a half free before that class, I have a whole week to do the Calc weekly, and since I won’t have time to do it until at least Wednesday, I was in no rush to print it. But, I printed them anyway and got back to work.

At this point, I wasn’t making a lot of progress on my physics, so I gave up and switched to reading a commentary on Genesis 2 for my Pentateuch class (the aforementioned textbook whose author went to seminary with my grandfather). Then, a freshman who I don’t really know and have talked to maybe once came in and asked politely if she could sit with me. I told her “of course!” and went back to reading. I glanced up at one point throughout my reading and asked her what her major was and how she’d been enjoying her first year. She eventually left, and I again wondered if that was why I had felt such desire to go to the library– to give this girl some company as she worked on her stressful autobiography assignment for her First Year Seminar class. I didn’t really think so, but, since it wasn’t quite 10:00, and I hadn’t yet finished my physics, I decided I’d wait a little longer and get a little more work done.

I finished my physics assignment and was reading Genesis 3 in preparation for class the next day when a classmate said, “Hey, Rebekah, do you have your physics notes from Friday on you?” Since she was absent that day and hadn’t gotten the notes yet, I gave them to her willingly so she could finish the assignment I myself had just finished moments before. Unfortunately, I had about 10 verses left in Genesis 3 to read and I was thinking about leaving when I was done. Not wanting to leave without my notes, however, I decided I’d have to wait until she was finished with them, and then I could leave. So, I finished my assignments, and contemplated getting a little ahead while I had the time.

And then God, because He sometimes likes to ruin your own plans and throw off any feeling you have of being ahead on work, did exactly that. That classmate who had borrowed my notes approached me again and said, “Hey, do you think you could help my friend with her New Testament homework?” At this point, I kind of felt like I wanted to go back and sleep or get ahead on my work, but, being a Biblical Studies minor, lover of learning, and person who’s passionate about God’s Word, I agreed.

As I gathered my stuff to go over to the other side of the room where they were sitting, my classmate reassured her friend, “Don’t worry. She’s an expert at this.” I reassured them that I was not, in fact, an expert, and was, in fact, the furthest thing from one, but I was reasonably knowledgeable and super passionate, and now is as good a time as any to find out how much I actually understand  and enjoy my minor.

I sat down and looked at her assignment. It wasn’t too difficult; it was just long and, quite honestly, should have been split into at least 2 assignments. (The work equated to reading all 4 gospels, comparing their introductions, talking about their connections to specific passages in the Old Testament, finding all the times Jesus mentions the Kingdom of God and explaining their meanings, and comparing the death and resurrection stories of each of the 4 gospels. There were 9 questions, each of which would require at least a paragraph or more of explanation.)

The first question instructed her to read the opening chapters of each book and compare writing styles, characteristics, and stories. I had done the exact same assignment last semester, so I figured it would be pretty painless. I asked her, “Ok, do you have your Bible?”
“It’s in my room”
“That’s alright, we can use mine.”
“You have yours’ with you?”
“Absolutely. I always do.” (Something that should be known about me: there are two things I always have in my backpack– a journal and my Bible. Because I never know when I’ll need to write something down or look something up. And, although I have the Bible app on my phone, nothing is better than seeing the Word printed on a page and being able to hold it in my hand).

I handed it to her and asked her to turn to Matthew.
“I don’t know where that is,” she replied, almost timidly, like she was worried that I would judge her or God would smite her.

I showed her how to find it, and I told her about the Bible app she could download on her phone if she wanted. “Cool!” she exclaimed, “I did not know you could do that.”

Admittedly, as I was waiting for her app to download, I looked at my watch and thought, “Oh man, I should have left earlier. How can I help her with her New Testament homework if she has no idea what it even is?” I wondered how someone’s knowledge could be so limited that it literally doesn’t even exist. Even growing up in a public high school, all my non Christian classmates had at least some knowledge of the Bible, what it was,, how it functioned, and how it was structured.

But, I figured now is as good a time as any to test out both my knowledge and my passion, so, I pressed on. As the app was downloading, I flipped to one of the gospels in my Bible, opened another on my phone, and then instructed her to find one of the others on her phone. I gave her a brief run down, for context, of what the purpose of the gospels is, then, I had her read the stories. As she was reading, I chatted with my physics classmate, and helped her with some of her work, familiarized myself with the rest of the NT assignment, and thought about how I could explain these amazing stories to someone with no knowledge. I thought about how I could start at square one– how could I answer these questions without spending hours explaining things that I grew up learning, that are so ingrained in me they’ve become second nature. I wondered how I could explain things that I myself had learned in the past year, but that excite me as if I’d studied them my whole life. I thought about how the only thing this girl had were the Words in front of her, my limited knowledge, and my passion.

She finished reading and began summarizing. I gave her a brief lesson about distinguishing chapters and verses, and she began writing. She then asked me to summarize Luke for her. She was confused about John the Baptist and Jesus and wasn’t sure who was who, who did what, and why John was important. I summarized it for her, and added a few fun facts of my own, and waited for her to write it all down. Then, I watched as she read and interpreted John. I was slightly shocked she understood John so well. I mean, John is my personal favorite gospel writer (although, Matthew’s pretty good too…), but he can sometimes be a super cryptic and difficult to understand writer, especially if you have no background or context whatsoever. Then, I discovered she was a communication major, and maybe that’s why she appreciated John so much. I briefly went a little off topic and talked about my love for John.

To make a long story short, I walked her through all the aspects of her assignment, added a few of my own fun facts and historical context comments in there for comprehension purposes. I tried to answer the questions her professor posed about connections to the Old Testament as much as possible without overwhelming her or making it super obvious that my Old Testament knowledge pales in comparison to my New Testament knowledge. I summarized the gospels, hit on the unique details of each gospel writers’ death and crucifixion stories, and basically summarized N.T Wright’s novel Simply Jesus. (If you haven’t read it– why? What are you waiting for. It’s amazing. Shout out to my NT professor for making us read that.)

By the end, I figured she would be a little overwhelmed. So, I let her read and answer the last question on her own (since it was mostly an opinion question anyway), and began to pack up my stuff. At this point, it had been over an hour, it was almost midnight, and any hope I had of getting ahead on homework had passed. But, I waited to see if she had any questions for me or anything she wanted to talk about. I wasn’t sure if what I had said made sense, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t confuse the poor girl more than necessary.

When she finished writing she said, “That was great! I’m sorry I kept you away from your work, but I did enjoy that.”
“It was my pleasure, I enjoyed it too. Like I said, I’m a Biblical studies minor, so I’m always down for talking Scripture.”

As I was preparing to go she asked me, “Where’d you get your Bible? Yours’ is so much easier to understand than mine.” So, of course this led to a brief discussion about Biblical translations and which versions I prefer and which ones Biblical scholars agree are good. Then, she asked if we could exchange phone numbers.

“It’s so great that [physics classmate] just found you! I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee sometime and do this again. And, I will probably need your help again.”

I gave her my number, I wished her luck on the rest of her assignments, and I left. But, I didn’t stop thinking about it.

Walking back to my dorm, in the rain, I was smiling. Not because I had just dropped some knowledge bombs on someone, or that I had just spent an hour and a half of my life doing something far more important than Calculus homework, or that I had a chance to see if I really have chosen the right path in life, but I was smiling because I was hopeful, joy-filled, and warm.

I felt hopeful that something I said may have sparked an interest in her. Maybe it was something I said about Christ’s purpose, maybe it was the joke I made about how I was that kid in Old and New Testament who would say “this is my favorite book!” before every book we studied. I realized that she came to Roberts for very different reasons than I did. I wanted a place where I would be challenged in my faith and pushed to grow, and she wanted the scholarship money she was offered because of volleyball. But, I was joy-filled that, even if that class was required, she had taken the time to sit, listen, and talk about it with me instead of running and dropping the class at the first sign of struggle. And I had a strange feeling of warmth, that I am still not sure how to describe. My whole heart was happy, like for a minute it forgot the brain controlled happiness because it took it all for itself, and it still hasn’t let go.

And, I couldn’t stop thinking about this encounter. As evidenced by the fact that I had promised I’d be in bed by 10 last night, and it is now 1:45 the next morning, and I am still awake writing this post, this encounter meant a lot to me.

I’m not sure where this girl will go with everything I told her tonight. I certainly hope she texts me and asks me for help again, and I hope that something I said resonated with her. But, I don’t know. I do know that I am left now with more reassurance, more confidence, and more doubt.

I”m left with reassurance that I have a knowledge of the Scriptures and a passion and desire to learn more about them and learn more from them. I am left with more confidence that I am somewhere on the right path for my life and that pursuing more, deeper studies into this is something I need to be doing and one thing I love to do. But, I am also left with more doubt about whether or not I have chosen the path in life that I actually want to take. Now, to be fair, I have a “I should change my major” crisis about once every week or two, but this time, something’s different. I”m left with a lot of questions, few answers, too many feelings, and not enough words to describe it all. But, I’ll leave it at this: God does some wonderfully strange and amazing things. And I am so glad He sent me to the library tonight, and didn’t allow me to leave, despite all the times I wanted to.

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It Is Well

Boppa Guy, as you were known, in order keep our two grandfathers straight, it’s been 11 years to the day. 11 years since you last smiled, and, although I wasn’t there, I know you were smiling, even as you were dying, because that’s who you were. It’s been 11 years since you went home- a place that you never felt was here on earth. And while I can’t believe it’s been 11 years, it’s even harder for me to believe why today it hurts more than it has in years. Why it hurts not nearly as much as 11 years ago, but at least as much as it has since.

I still remember the day it happened. Or, at least I remember the moment I found out. It was a Wednesday night. I remember my dad calling my sisters and me into his room. He had gone to visit you earlier that evening and had returned about the same time we had returned from church. We sat on his bed, knowing what he was going to say, yet hoping he wouldn’t say it. Because, although we were young, the oldest of us just 11, we understood what his silence meant. We knew you were sick. We saw you just a few days earlier when they brought you home from the hospital because you no longer wanted to be there. You just wanted to be at home, surrounded by those you love, comfortable and at peace. And, although you had come home, we knew that it didn’t mean you were better, but that it meant you wanted to be home when you went home. We knew. So, when my dad said the words I still remember to this day, the words I sometimes still play back in my mind over and over again, none of us were shocked.

What I don’t really remember is how it felt. I don’t remember if I cried right away. I don’t remember if I ever got mad at God for taking you. Or at you for leaving us. I don’t remember if I told any of my friends the next day at school. I don’t remember if I ever tried to deny it. I don’t remember if I actually completely understood what was happening. I remember I cried at your funeral. But, I wasn’t entirely sure if I was crying because I was sad or because everyone else was. I remember asking my mom why she was crying. You weren’t her father, and I thought that meant she shouldn’t be sad. I remember people sharing stories about your life. I remember seeing you in the casket. I even remember thinking you would sit up any minute and yell “Got you!” or something. I remember tears, and someone handing my grandmother a flag. But, I also remember there was laughter. And family. And food. And I remember thinking that is exactly what you would have wanted.

Mostly, I remember the music. I remember my dad quoting “Big House”- one of my all time favorite songs that I have grown to love even more since that day. I know that now, every time I listen to that song, I want to get up and dance- which is what you would want. But I also want to sit in a corner and think about you- which is something you would want as long as I wasn’t sad. I remember my oldest sister and cousins singing “It Is Well.” And I know that now, every time I hear that, I want to cry- which you would not want me to do. But, I also want to sing it with a beautiful passion as I bask in God’s amazing beauty- which is definitely what you would want me to do.

You would want me to jump up and shout “Come and go with me, to my Father’s house. It’s a big big house, with lots and lots of room.” You’d want me to pretend to eat food and throw a football as I exclaim “A big big table with lots and lots of food. A big big yard where we can play football.” And, I do it. Because I know you’d want me to. And, I know you’re doing it with me.

You’d want me to remember God’s faithfulness as I sing “When peace like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.” You’d want me to raise my voice and sing with a passion as I echo “Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord oh my soul. It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul) it is well, it is well with my soul.” And I do. Because it is well with my soul.

And Boppa Guy, maybe that’s why today was so difficult. You see, I woke up with a painful twinge in my stomach and ache in my head. I thought maybe it was because I needed more sleep, or maybe it was a result of my current emotional state due to my recent heartbreak. But, then I remembered what day it was. January 18. And, then I knew. I knew the twinge was a reminder of the sadness of life but also that there’s “a big big table, with lots and lots of food.” I knew the ache was a reminder that pain exists, but that “whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.” And suddenly, I felt a sense of peace. You were reminding me that God’s present and that He, and you, love me. Because whatever my lot, you, Boppa, have taught me to say, “it is well with my soul.”

They played “It Is Well” at the end of a beautiful chapel service this afternoon. A service devoted to prayer. A service that I needed. A service that spoke to me so much at this point in my life. And, as I was walking out, I was already thinking of you, because you would have loved the service. And when they started playing “It Is Well,” I thought of you more. I thought about the fact that you have been gone for 11 years. Which means I have lived longer on this earth without you than I have with you. Which means I have few memories to remember you by, and each day my memory fades more and more. I thought about how I didn’t see you as I often as I would have liked, and I didn’t really spend time with you even when I was with you. I thought of all the memories we didn’t make. I thought about how I lost, or destroyed, or both, the rose I had gotten at your funeral. I thought about how there are few pictures of you and I together, but how I have a photo of you holding my doll- which at the time, was my most loved possession. The only thing I have of yours is a Bible that was given to me because you, like me, were hard of seeing. I thought about how you weren’t there to see me get baptized, or perform at my first Synchronized Swimming show, or compete at my first Bible Quizzing tournament, or graduate from high school. Or how you won’t be there to see me go on my first date, graduate from college,  or get married. You won’t be able to meet your great grandchildren or watch your children and grandchildren grow up.

But, I guess in a way, you were there, and you will always be there. Because I see you everywhere. I see you in grandma, who misses you so much, and in the artwork she does that would make you so happy and so proud. How each stroke of her brush or line of her pen somehow reflects you and your love for her. I see you in your children. In my uncle who shares your name. My aunt who was always daddy’s little girl and who never stops talking about you. My dad, who acts more like you everyday, with each made up song lyric and ridiculous story. How he insists that every time something is wrong it’s “because we don’t drink enough water.” I see you in my cousin, who never got to meet you, but who looks so much like you. I see you in your great granddaughter, who may have been born into unfortunate circumstances, but who shares your joy for life. Who is so sweet and innocent- you’d love her so much. I see you in my older sister, who acts so much like you. Whose photo we have, sitting next to you on the couch, both of you crossing your arms, copying each other’s face. I see you in my oldest sister who looks exactly like your daughter and who makes jokes exactly like you would. I even see you in the flowers, trees, wind, and rain. Because you’re always here.

And so, Boppa Guy, I am still not sure exactly why today hurts more than it has in any of the past 11 years. Maybe it’s because we talked about the death of loved ones in one of my classes yesterday. Maybe it’s because I heard that song in chapel. Maybe it’s because I was so young when it happened that I’m just now realizing how painful it is. Maybe my sadness doesn’t just come from missing you. But, whatever the reason is, I know that today, I missed you. Bur, I also know that you loved- love- me, and would be proud of me. Although, to be fair, you were always proud of all your grandchildren. But, you’d be proud of who I am, and who I am becoming. You’d be proud that I have 19 books of the Bible memorized- some of which I memorized using your Bible- because you always loved to share your love of the Bible. You’d be proud to know that I have that same hunger and love for God’s Word you had. You’d be proud to know that I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, where I’m going, how I’ll get there, or what will happen along the way, but I know the One who does. And so, I know I missed you. I know that I am struggling through life right now, my heart is broken, and I don’t know if it’ll ever be whole again. But I also know that you have taught me to say “it is well.”

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