Saturday, April 11, 2009

Empty Graves

The other day a loved one of mine mentioned that they would be driving only about 15 miles away from the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. This is significant, because my grandfather bought burial plots for our extended family on the day that I was born, as it seemed certain that my grave would be needed before the end of the week. I told this loved one of mine that if they knew where to find the plot, they should go find it and rejoice that I am not in it. It occurred to me the last time that I was there that I might like to have a stone there to declare that I am alive. I am also reminded of the time my grandfather spoke of the strange lady he ran into on that hillside one day who talked about how her son, killed at a young age, would one day rise up out of that ground to meet the Lord in the air, per the writings of the Apostle.

It is humbling for me to walk in any cemetery to realize just what I’ve been given – a second life after aspiration pneumonia at birth with seizures non-stop for days and ventilator dependent, all sure signs of brain damage that could have only rendered me dead or in a vegetative state should I survive. But I recovered and was sent home from the hospital in miraculous good health when I was 14 days old. The now late Forrest Moyer who eventually became head of pediatrics at that hospital stayed by my side in the intensive care unit for the first three nights after my birth while the seizures raged. All while my Godfather’s aunt Aida prayed for my healing, along with her United Pentecostal Church, all of whom “prayed through” for me (a sometimes loaded language phrase often used in Pentecostal circles). How odd it is that I know this just from my history and remember none of it myself, yet I know that I escaped my own early grave by Gods grace, His unmerited favor. We should all examine our lives to see if we are living them as we should, but I have an extra impetus – a miracle and my yet vacant gravesite.

A few years ago, I visited Ireland with my mom and my husband, and we stopped at Clonmacnoise ("meadow of the sons of Nos"), a sixth century monastery founded by Ciaran ("the Younger," one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland) along the banks of the River Shannon. On the tour there, the guide explained that the Celtic Crosses were often used by missionaries to share the Gospel by engraving them with depictions of characters from the Word. Celtic Crosses also serve as gravestones, and we wandered through the cemetery there, looking at many of them, particularly the “Cross of the Scriptures.” Our guide also told us of the many times the Vikings came down the Shannon to attack, tearing down and destroying the monastery more times than I can remember. No wonder the depiction of Saint Ciaran seen as you enter the grounds there appears with his head bowed down as he stands. He labored every time to rebuild the grounds that the Vikings destroyed a ridiculous number of times. Ciaran rebuilt every time, far more times than I would have ever dreamed of doing. And not all that far from that site, my remote Mullen ancestors, tonsured Irish scribes, penned their “Book of Mulling,” copies of the four Gospels that were used for evangelism and missionary work in the 8th Century.

Most of what appears here on this blog consists of what the Gospel is not as opposed to what it is. I wish that my niche had been to pen the Scriptures for missions work, an 8th century pocket Gospel instead of 21st Century information about spiritual abuse. But it is not the 8th century anymore, and I am not One of St. Ciaran’s or St. Mullins’ monks. But I ask myself as I celebrate the empty tomb of Jesus tomorrow whether I have rightly honored Him in the living of my life. I pray that in the final summation of things that I will have carved my own proverbial “Crosses of the Scriptures” and will have penned many of my own proverbial “Books of Mulling” along the way, work that shows forth the Word of God and not my own strength or self. May I be as zealous as Ciaran to continue to tenaciously rebuild what has been destroyed. May what lasts and stands be a lasting testimony of grace, a proverbial marker for my own empty grave that the Lord has given me out of His unmerited favor – one that points to the empty tomb of Jesus.

In college, I picked up a book of motivational quotes one day, something that I was not studying, but something that came to my attention. I found a quote in that has long stuck in my head for more than 20 years that said “What if the dream come true, what if the dream come true? And millions unknown come to dwell in the place I have shaped in my heart?” (I do not remember the author of the quote.) Though I trust that God takes all that I have done and works it into something that brings Him glory, I hope to honor Him above all things in so doing. May my dreams ever be that as many who will shall come to know Him and His Resurrection, to taste and see that He is good. May the place I have shaped in my heart with my words be a place of refuge for the fugitive and a place of truth that directs others to the Word of God and to the freedom offered to us in Christ through His sacrifice. At least, I aspire to such. May it be so, more and more.