“How could he be dead? Surely, God would somehow, someway, still intervene...He was not to intervene in the way I hoped, but in quite another way--equally miraculous. Just how miraculous I was not to realize until much later. I was to be led by that Power outside myself into areas beyond my knowledge, along the path that leads through and out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. There would be rocky ledges, steep slopes, slippery places, many a fork in the road where a clear-cut decision would be required. I knew none of the trails: the Valley was untrodden country. yet by sure steps I would be led through it. I was to discover the Lord as my Shepherd- quite literally and in many practical ways”. - Catherine Marshall “To Live Again”
I looked out the window of the plane on my way home on Friday night, thinking about being amidst those that still feel the ache from the loss of my lovely sister. I remember feeling the way Mrs. Marshall described: walking blindly through the Valley, finding the ledges, the slippery places, and the forks in the road to be daunting... but they were powerful projectors that pushed me forward into the unknown-- into the good. Even after all of this time, my eyes still fill with tears as I remember Nikki’s sweet smile, her laugh, and her trust as she told me her most intimate and precious secrets. I often hear people tell me, “You are so brave.”, “You have so much strength in you.”, “I can’t believe you are still moving forward at this pace.”
Well, truth is, I am not the strong person I’d like people to think I am. I was incredibly surprised by my response to her death-- that I was so concerned with making sure the Gospel was talked about at her funeral-- so that many people that did not know Christ could hear His message to them through her life. My usual selfish streak wasn’t showing itself at the time. It was very unlike me to put others ahead of myself, especially in a moment of deep pain. Something was added to me those days that followed her death. Some form of selflessness that was absolutely foreign to my typical way of doing life. Trust me, I’m NOT that mature of a person.
I find myself often still feeling the linens on her bed as I laid my head down by Nikki’s hand and her legs, exhausted from no sleep... with the sounds of Family Matters reruns in the background on the TV. I will never forget singing to her that night, with my voice shaky and begging God to heal her. Never before had my prayers been so desperate. I remember the night nurse watching me as I sang in those early hours of the night and wondering to myself, “What is she thinking? Am I crazy to be believing she could wake up at any moment?”
After all of the mess, I found myself questioning my faith and my life. I became terrified of future pain and suffering. There was no way I was going to get through all of this. My pain dominated my life. (And it still does at times!) After the initial few weeks of selflessness, my typical selfish behavior returned and still rages inside my heart on multiple occasions throughout the week. Praise the Lord that we have the Cross- that He had to die on our behalf because we couldn’t save ourselves- that our hearts would need redemption in the most unlikely place- through death.... and then, through resurrection. He trumps our selfishness every time. Marshall wrote, “I was to discover the Lord as my Shepherd- quite literally and in many practical ways.” So far, I’ve been blessed with His incredible presence in teaching me what it means to love amidst the pain. I’m looking forward to more of His direction.