I recently lost my father to cancer.
That sentence seems so abrupt. I’ve been staring at it trying to determine a better way to ease in. But the truth is, there was no easing in. It was brutal and unexpected. When I visit his grave now, I feel offended by the grass. Yes, the grass.
New sod created distinct lines when his casket was lowered. It was, at least, honoring in its contrast. When the lines began to fade I measured the distance with my bare feet to memorize exactly how wide and how long it was. Blended grass diminishes the jagged edges I still feel and symbolizes a normal I don’t know how to hold. Everything feels anything but normal. Broken, dark, messy, insecure, wrong, lonely…yes. But not normal. Perhaps my new normal just terrifies me.
Someone asked me what my father did that made me feel loved. I couldn’t possibly verbalize it all but upon introspection I recognized it was less about things and more about the goodness of his presence in my life. I knew he would fight for me. I don’t mean my battles. I mean, me.
That’s when something occurred to me. One of the greatest gifts my dad gave to his family is that he fought for us, even while he was on his way to Heaven. You may wonder if that sounds biblical. But hear me out.
My father was ready to see his Lord, the Savior he had been waiting almost 60 years to meet face to face. But when suffering overwhelmed him, with full submission to the will of God, he lovingly fought to have as much time with us as possible even though he was on his way to see Jesus.
At first, I wondered about the theology behind what I felt. And then it hit me. My father’s last act upon this earth was to model the love of God to his family in perhaps the most profound way of his life and in doing so pointed us directly to the Gospel.
For God so loved the world, that he was willing to endure the temporary separation of the community of the trinity and the home of Heaven, to be on this broken earth…just to be with us. What love.
I have a new awareness of God choosing to be with us, even when Heaven was literally at hand. I am beginning to understand how it could be that even while he resides there, he chooses me.
These last months, life has been levels of chaos for all of us. We are isolated due to a pandemic, days simultaneously chaotic while mundane. Many talk about how wonderful the quality time with their children has been; I must admit I have cried every day because it’s overwhelming and utterly exhausting. I am out of creativity, problem-solving skills, energy, and due patience. I am failing as a mother in all kinds of new ways.
So here is what I want us to remember: At the end of it all, I believe the mark of an extraordinary mom will not be that we had the perfect thing to say in the face of every problem, or that we were always fun, or able to build a full-sized treehouse from popsicle sticks and gluten free homemade jello that thousands of people liked on Instagram in under eight minutes, or that we were never frustrated, stressed, irritable, sad, or angry.
It will be a million things our children can’t explain. What they will hold to, is that the love was inherently good. We can love them with what is beautiful and vulnerable in humanity. It will be flaw-fully, yes. But it can hold spectacular facets that are a reflection of the divine, for we are made in his image, too.
They can know we would fight for them. From here and to eternity.
Naomi Zacharias graduated from Wheaton College with a BA in Business/Economics. She is the author of Litlte Prince, Little Prince and the director of Wellspring International, the humanitarian arm of RZIM.
Naomi has visited women in red-light districts across Europe and Asia, foster homes for children affected by HIV/AIDS throughout Asia and Africa, displacement camps in Uganda, areas of the Middle East offering aid to Iraqi refugees, areas devastated by natural disaster, and international shelters for victims of human trafficking and domestic violence.
Naomi contributed a chapter on women and education in Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice. She contributed two essays in the NIV Bible for Women and two essays in the in(courage) Devotional Bible. Naomi is one of six speakers featured on the Real Women, Real Faith DVDs and is the author of The Scent of Water: Grace for Every Kind of Broken.
Naomi lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her family.