It was the typical Sunday morning, this morning. You know—getting the kids dressed, hair done, teeth brushed, some semblance of breakfast, get in the car, tell the kids to not touch each other or talk to each other, and answer as I do every Sunday morning, “No, son, I do not know what we are having for lunch at 9:45 in the morning. “
Deep breath, check lipstick in car mirror, and begin to worry if I am wearing enough layers not to freeze in the 200+ year old sanctuary where we worship.
“I should have worn socks,” I think to myself, “My feet are cold already.”
Don’t judge. I’m sure similar profound theological thoughts were bouncing around in your head on the way to church this morning.
Park the car, herd kids into the church, speak to friends, casually ask about their Thanksgiving plans this week, admire the babies and cute little girls in their Sunday best, and walk into Sunday School. Late. Again.
That’s OK, we just missed the fellowship time, I think. We should be in time for the speaker.
What I witnessed when I stepped through the door stopped me cold. About a hundred people were gathered around a sweet sister and faithful servant of Christ in prayer.
Something was wrong, terribly wrong.
The usual hurriedness of my morning fell away and fear rose in my chest.
Forming a human hedge of protection against whatever was threatening, our church family circled around her and her husband, embracing them, hands gently laid on their shoulders, faces bowed before our God in urgent prayer.
Others knelt and those too far away to touch her reached out and laid a hand on the person in front of them in one love, one spirit, and one mind crying out in faith on behalf of this precious sister. Many cried openly, others wiped away precious tears of love quietly.
Those who could form words prayed aloud humbly asking the God who authors life to spare hers from the cancer that threatened to take her from us, from her small children and from her husband. The grief in the room was palpable.
But so was the glory and the glory was bigger than the grief.
I stood by the door and didn’t move, trying to memorize every detail of the scene unfolding in front of me. I worried that if I moved or knelt or even closed my eyes, I would somehow disturb the glory that hovered over the body of Christ at work.
My eyes moved to her face. In the midst of the crowd who had bowed their heads in a reverent mixture of fear, grief and love, she stood tall among them in the center, the only one with her face lifted upward, peaceful and radiant in a way that is hard to describe.
Glorious light fell on her face. I wonder if others saw it. I hope they did because we do not see glimpses of holiness everyday. Our God came near this morning and in our great grief, he ushered in his great glory. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful and I walked away changed by it. That’s what the glory of God does.
God sometimes allows his glory to break through in the darkness of our lives. We most often see it in the faces of those who are struggling, as I did in my sister this morning. It is something rare and precious, a true privilege to witness. Those glimpses are a sweet assurance of the love of God and makes us long for the day when that same glory covers the earth, eradicating all darkness.
We do not know what the days ahead hold for her and her sweet family. We are not promised a trouble free life. I am sure she will wrestle with doubt, anger and fear as she walks this path, but there was none of that in that moment. She was secure, steadfast, and sure and seeing the glory of God resting on her face in turn made me secure, steadfast and sure with her.
While the body of Christ was ministering to her, she was ministering to me. I watched as the Spirit lifted her head from a state of worry and fear, and gently tilted her face toward her Savior. That is when, without uttering a word, she shared the gospel of peace with all of us, and God was glorified.
“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3.3