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But who would we be if this weren’t hard?

September 14, 2010

By the time we were near the end of the call, Verna was sobbing and wheezing. I had called to thank her for the card she sent to wish us well in our new home. She remembered our moving date and every detail with precision. Some of my friends 60 years her junior don’t keep track nearly as well; but of course, they have more on their minds. At 96, Verna fixes on a very few things, and I am as much honored as I am baffled that I am one of these things. And at 96, Verna began to cry, because she knew we might never see each other again.

“Till glory, Verna,” I said, trying to be reassuring but wondering whether this was a stupid thing to say to someone her age. Glory, after all, couldn’t be far off. But her sobbing persisted, and I sensed the worst. “Verna! We will see each other in glory, and we will know each other!” She sobbed harder. The Lord rebuke you, Satan! How dare you mess with her mind this way right now? “Verna! Our Savior has never lost one from the palm of his hand! You know that! Do you hear me? You can never be lost! You will see Jesus, and you will see me, in glory.” I drew some thoughts from my pastor’s sermon of only two days ago on the perseverance of the saints. I assured Verna, or tried to assure her, that it didn’t matter if she didn’t feel saved right then, that her salvation was a fact that Christ would never change. But I also knew it was unlikely that Verna would suddenly become a Calvinist at that moment, and I could only pray for her comfort. What a dreadful trap it is on which her brand of faith has hinged. It must indeed be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a fickle God.

It was very hard. “Verna,” I said, “It’s all right. Who would we be if this didn’t tear our hearts out?” “Okay, Honey,” she said. And, still choking and wheezing, she said goodbye.

Parting from old friends on the earthly plane — and that is where I live — doesn’t become easier with practice; and anyway, I don’t get much practice. It’s just hard. It’s hard, like a lot of other things that make us who we are.

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