Just a couple days ago, I drove home with my car window down, enjoying the milder weather and an unusually sunny day here in Pittsburgh. What a difference a couple days make! This morning, I could barely get my storm door open with the ice lodged between the concrete and the metal frame. After that minor struggle, I looked out to my lawn covered in 5 inches of snow, and reached around the side wall for the snow shovel so that I could begin the process of digging out.
Thanks to Facebook’s “On this Day” feature, I was reminded that it was today, five years ago, that I went back to church. It was the first time I had attended a service at Celebration Community Church. Well, the first time I had attended there was about a month before, for my wife’s memorial service. This church, specifically their pastor, had loved my family (in word and deed) through the final months of my wife’s life, and prior to Jaime’s passing, we both agreed that he should be the one to speak at her memorial. Walking back into the church that Sunday morning was very painful. I intentionally sat on the opposite side I had been seated the evening of Jaime’s service. My soul was so battered by all that had happened. My heart was empty and afraid. I sat alone. And yet, I didn’t want to run away. Something inside me knew I needed to face this moment. Then, they began to sing the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” I know the song well, yet I had no desire to say the words out loud – not when I had lost so much; not when I wasn’t sure if God had been as faithful as I would have liked Him to be. Something happened, though, when we got to the final stanza. Do you know it?
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.
I mouthed the final two lines – not a sound from my lips – but definitely there were tears in my eyes. Something happened that final stanza…nothing magical, but definitely something real. In the midst of my fear and deep sorrow, God reminded me that He was well aware of my hurt, but that absolutely nothing had changed about His love and faithfulness in my life. He wanted to heal my heart. And He’s reminded me of that over and over again. I am so grateful God had me go back to church that January 13 – to that church – to literally and emotionally face my loss and be reminded that God alone is able to see me through the fiercest storm, provide my every need, and by His strength begin to dig out, heal, and restore when the sun shines again.