The Death of Dan and the Rebirth of Me
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
Finally, signs of fall are appearing! With warm temperatures lingering late into October this year, I have yet to don jeans and a sweatshirt or sip a pumpkin latte. This week, however, my family planned to force things along and visit a pumpkin farm on Saturday. So when Saturday arrived, you would think my first thoughts would have been about pumpkins, but no.
I woke up with my brother on my mind instead.
This is the anniversary week of that fateful day 30 years ago (October 18) when I received a phone call that he was in a motorcycle accident and was not expected to live through the night. Three decades ago this week I packed my bags with clothes for a funeral and had a friend drive me to the Jersey Shore where my brother lay in a coma for eight days before he died.
This catastrophic event was one of three events that occurred in rapid succession in my mid-twenties.
- A man I loved broke up with me.
- A ministry I loved wore me out.
- A brother I loved died.
Three strikes; I was out of God’s ballgame. I wasn’t playing anymore. I allowed these circumstances to derail my faith for seven years. I don’t think a day goes by when I do not face a remnant of the mess I made in that time-frame.
Sometimes consequences linger long.
But when I found out I was pregnant in that seventh year, immediate resolve rose up within me. Enough! I missed God. I missed prayer. I missed the Bible. I missed church. I missed my friends.
I wanted to be set free.
People think freedom is doing whatever they want to do. No, that leads to entrapment. Decisions made in haste, made with feelings, made with lust, made with unhealthy motivation (to please others, to look good, etc.) wrap us up into a tangled mess. I am living testimony that getting out of such a mess can take a lifetime, but with each release of something binding, there is greater freedom. And each small taste of freedom makes me invite more.
I am not the same woman I was before Dan died.
God did what he said he would do in Romans 8:28, 29. He used all things for good and made me more like Jesus.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:28, 29)
My husband knows this is a milestone anniversary year. I came downstairs this morning to find Pepperidge Farm coconut cake in the refrigerator (Dan’s favorite cake) and a pot of hydrangeas on the kitchen table to greet me this morning (my favorite flower).
Good move, husband.
There isn’t a friend of mine who doesn’t know about Dan. But he is more than a memory. He is more than my brother. He is the most tragic straw God used to break the back of the striving, performance-oriented approach I brought with me into the Christian life. Quite honestly, because I didn’t know any better.
Living the death of Dan forged a path of better knowing my Savior, Jesus Christ.
Prior to Dan’s death I didn’t want to waste a minute of this life serving God and telling others about Him. I still don’t want to waste a minute of this life serving God with every fiber of my being and helping people get to know who Jesus really is.
- But now I want to, I don’t have to.
- Now the Spirit in me is the power, not my self-effort.
- Now the responsibility of results are up to Him, not up to me.
- Now I am getting better every year, not becoming more entangled.
I have been experiencing freedom in Christ.
My world is still chaotic, but I am the founder of Oaks Ministries and the authentic author of Live ABOVE the Chaos. Any time anyone sees me live ABOVE the chaos, responding to my world in a way that reflects God’s nature to a watching world….
they see Galatians 5:1 now written in me.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
And now I want everyone in the world to know that they too can live in true freedom.
Dan, I just started typing this note below a photo from the last day I saw you (Dan is to my left), and the last time the three Thompson siblings were together (my younger brother is to my right). If only I had known. I still love you so much it hurts. Your death was the most crushing blow of three, but I am okay. God met me and grew my faith in the pain. He taught me more about who He really is, not who I thought He was. I still know nothing about Him really, at least compared to all there is to know. But I know enough to have walked in victory for nearly 20 of the 30 years since your accident. I know it would please you to know I am okay.
I have not forgotten you. You live on in my memory, my conversations, my book, and in the names of each of my children who will probably be living long after I go to heaven.
Your life was not wasted on me.
Picture Explanation: We went to a pumpkin farm as planned!
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