Easter is about the fact that God loves me. He loves me so much that He did not stay where He was demanding that I find a way to Him. He came for me, pursued me, called me, waited for me, spoke to me, suffered for me, chose to die for me.
These are the thoughts that draw me close tonight.
My roomate and I drove past a local movie theatre tonight. In front of this particular theatre is a cross, two feet tall, adorned with flowers and a picture frame, and dedicated to the person who did not make it through the intersection. This person was my friend Chad.
Chad was bright eyed and full of life. The day I met him I knew he was special. I knew that God's hand was on his life. He was about 20 years old, loved people, loved his bike, and loved the girls. He often invited me to his parties and get togethers. I usually declined because of other plans or because of feeling uncomfortable about the people who would be there. He didn't seem to care though. He didn't play favorites. Everyone was accepted and okay in his book.
I prayed for Chad often. He was laid so deeply upon my heart during the year and a half that I worked with him. I do not remember if I ever spoke to him poignantly about God. But I always hoped that the words of encouragement and prayer that I offered brought life to him in some way.
One Sunday last October I received a phone call after returning from church. Chad had been in an accident and had not made it. According to my friend Paul he was already gone and was about to go through the process of organ donation. I couldn't believe it. I cried and cried, and then I turned to prayer.
I didn't know that he was only in a coma. I didn't know that there was still hope. (Paul had given me no hope.) God layed the story of Lazarus on my heart. As I prayed I kept thinking about Lazarus and Jesus' words to him as he came from the tomb. "Come forth." I kept praying these words over and over, compelled, but having no idea what was going on.
One week later I attended Chad's funeral. It was held in his school where he had attended K-12. This tiny Oklahoma town saw a melting pot of people who had been touched by Chad's life. Black, white, hispanic, rich, poor, children, adults, goths, gays, straights, you name it, they were there. It was at a pre-funeral lunch that I met Stephanie, another born again Christian who had also worked with Chad.
Stephanie had spent two days at the hospital while every effort was made to save Chad's life. She sat by his bedside and prayed. She told me that although he was in a coma his vitals would skyrocket whenever someone would enter the room. Because of this, she believed that he knew what was going on. Stephanie felt the urgency to share the gospel with Chad. She told him that God loved him. She told him what Christ had done for him on the cross. She told him how to be saved. And then she prayed with him to receive Christ. As Stephanie shared this with me at the funeral, I began to cry. I truly believe that Jesus came to Chad in his very last hour on earth. Though we could not see the evidence, we felt it in our hearts.
At the funeral, the tears began as I heard Chad's school principal share from the Bible. He spoke of the story of Lazarus. I remembered my prayers and what God had laid on my heart and I was comforted. Later on, all of us who knew him from work gathered at the Cracker Barrel for lunch. We ate and shared as a family. After quite a few people had left a chorus of women from the middle dining room began to sing a song. "We will meet again, don't know where, don't know when...but we will meet again, on a bright and sunny shore..." It was this whole song about meeting again in heaven someday. Stephanie asked if they knew we had all just come from a funeral. Of course, they didn't know...they had just come for some food and wanted to share a song with the restaurant. Again, we were comforted.
I share this story to say this....I am glad for the faithfulness of God.
God wants us so much that even at the last moments of our lives He will make a way for us to come to Him. He does not hold grudges. He does not make us wait until we get it right. He died knowing that because of his death, WE, who did not yet know God would be able to know Him. I think of the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him. He did not have time to make his life right, he only had time to believe and reach out. And at the last minute, this man, being punished for terrible wrongs, was accepted into the kingdom of God.
Ask Ashley Smith or Brian Nichols about the mercy and the grace of God. Their second chances have been posted all over the news.
I will end tonight with these words spoken by Jesus: