“Happy birthday, son. We miss you and we’re all hurting.” – Braden’s Family
“I love you all so much! Please look and listen closely for what God has to say, and He will help heal your pain”. – Braden
May 8, 2019. 1:30PM. The day before Braden’s birthday.
Lately, we’ve written more than usual. Cathy told me I’d have to write because when things get to be too much, that helps. This week has been just that. Too much.
Woke to rain this morning. It hasn’t slowed once. The last time I remember it raining like this was Oct 31st. That day it began at sunrise and stopped late that evening. This is a familiar rain. Slow, steady, yet gentle with rolling thunder. No house-shaking booms though and no visible lightening strikes.
The weather guy said it was supposed to clear by noon but he was wrong. I’ve heard it said that, other than a weather reporter, what other occupation allows a person to keep their job when they’re inaccurate 90 percent of the time!
Yesterday I finally finished a huge backyard project staining our fence. All 17 gallons worth. That came after another two days of preparing the wood. The goal has been to be done for Caitlin’s half year birthday party. It’s been far over-due. It gave me a lot of time to think. Hard work helps me do that. A couple of things I observed while staining hit me pretty hard.
I took some before-and-after photos and thought, why would we need to stain a natural thing that God created from a tree? Wouldn’t it be beautiful just as it was made and without changing it? All I know is the “after” version certainly looks better than the “before” one.
Also, I was working in the corner where we have a large and quick- growing tree. I’d never noticed something before, but suddenly a memory of our son flooded my mind. On the trunk of this tree was a single scar. You see, Braden loved to shoot. BB guns, air rifles, pistols, shotguns, a home made potato gun. You name it. He would never shoot an animal, but loved shooting targets. When younger, he really took little time to consider the collateral damage potential.
Of course he shot clays and fixed targets, cans, and bottles. But as a kid, he also shot lawn chairs, windows, glass doors, and the occasional wall. Once he had a BB gun and failed to consider the ricochet. Kind of expensive for dad! He wasn’t wanting to destroy them of course. He just thought, “Hey, I wonder what would happen if…”. What happened was often I’d get mad and want to kick him down the block! But that was our boy. Very much a boy.
In 2017 Braden got a crossbow with allowance dollars he’d saved. He went online and got a nice one along with a supply of arrows. The expensive kind of course. Now, a crossbow and a regular bow are two entirely different things. A regular bow is loaded by the strength of the archer’s arm. The arrow’s range and accuracy are limited to human strength and skill.
The crossbow is engineered to exceed human strength by far and often has a scope, allowing the accuracy of a sharpshooter. It can pass completely through the target (be it prey or a bale of hay). What it will not go through, no matter how much pressure is placed on the bow… is a large and quick- growing tree like the one in our backyard.
I was there when Braden loaded his first arrow along the back fence behind our pool . I saw his intended target. I spoke up. “Bud. What do you think will happen if you hit that tree?” His response was expected. “Well, let’s see”. And with a squeeze of the trigger, he’d shot this poor, innocent, helpless, large and fast-growing tree.
At once he knew what I had already known. His expensive arrow had found its final target and would never be removed to fly free again. We had to break it off and move on to find another target. One that would allow him to retrieve his arrows so they could be re-used for lawn chairs, etc.
At the time, I gave little to no thought of that tree. I was more concerned that my son had experienced another disappointing moment at the height of his excitement, in his very first shot with a new crossbow.
The scar on that tree is there today and will remain for its entire life. Although injured, the arrow didn’t phase it in the slightest. The leaves produced every season will give visual beauty and audible comfort to those around it by the sound of breezes and rainfall. In fact, I have enjoyed sitting outside many mornings just looking and listening in times I need that tree.
Now, I mention these simple observations because God does speak when I listen. Why would we stain something that is already beautifully made by God? I would submit we who have accepted Christ are stained improvements as God’s children. We are stained by the blood of His son, Jesus who volunteered to die in our place so we can have more abundant and ultimately, eternal life. And we are so much better after than before. I certainly was a project over-due and remain very much a work in progress.
The Bible talks about how Jesus died on a tree and when his disciples and others saw him, they didn’t realize who he was after his resurrection. That is, until they saw the scars from being pierced and nailed to that tree in their place.
I don’t know exactly why Jesus chose to give us perfect grace, but I can testify personally that when I’m injured by life’s arrows, they don’t kill me. They do hurt. Sometimes beyond my pain tolerance. However, in tried and confirmed faith, I am strengthened ever more. You can see some of my scars. Some you can’t. Still, they’re certainly not attractive. We can only pray our scars might help others who need to know Jesus SAVES lives.
We take a great deal of comfort in knowing beyond a doubt, Braden loved Jesus. He accepted the free gift of salvation a few years before he took his eternal reward. It was far too early for our timing and it leaves scars each of us will bear the rest of our lives. His great “Aunt Jo” went to be with Jesus just a few days ago. She held a special place in all our hearts and Braden held a very special place in hers.
I thank God every single day for each moment we got to share on Braden’s 18 year journey here on earth and for Aunt Jo’s living testimony for almost 87 years. Mostly, I thank God that we all are assured of the Holy Spirit’s presence here and a full blown family reunion that we can only imagine.
Thursday, we mark the day our firstborn came into the world. On Friday we say goodbye to Aunt Jo. Sunday, we celebrate all mothers for their love and sacrifice in bringing our children into this world.
Tomorrow, we’ll see another sunrise. One I will be anticipating and watching through the beauty of a scarred tree.
Family Prayer: Father. How often we look right past the little things You wish to say while we are working through life on our own. Thank you for helping open our eyes and hearts to the beauty of your creation. Thank you for taking on each one of us as your special projects and for sending your Son, Jesus so we might be stained by His cleansing blood. We pray for every one of your children and for every family facing the scars this world produces. May they look to You for healing and strength. In Jesus’ name, we pray these things, Amen.