Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Better to go to the house of mourning...

I was checking my email and ran across this Yahoo headline. Besides the fact that this article deals with the Unreached People Group of the Day, I was struck by something else, something much more personal.

My uncle, aunt, and two cousins spent a great deal of their lives in Peshawar, the town in which this attack took place. My aunt and uncle worked with relief organizations, such as Mercy Corps and Afghan Aid, in various countries throughout their lives, including Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Haiti, East Timor, and Kiribati. I have always loved to learn about other countries, and I would look forward to the times when they would return to the States and bring with them pieces of the cultures they lived in: clothing, purses, rugs, toys. Their modest farm in Knifley, KY (pop. 150) could easily have been mistaken for an art gallery or international museum, including both treasures from overseas and artwork created here in Kentucky by relatives. While they were living in the States, my aunt taught at a nearby college and helped with some local history projects. Their involvement in both worlds also expressed itself in their ability to cook for us a fragrant, spicy meal of curries as well as hearty venison sausage or squirrel stew (yes, I liked it a lot...) I also have memories of the family coming to my school to do presentations. I have fond memories of times we traveled together to New Jersey to visit family and of a trip my dad and two aunts and grandmother took to Seattle. I even have a video from when I was 12 where my cousin (on my mom's side) and I had made my bedroom into a library and my aunt was visiting at the time (I've always been a librarian at heart...)!

But there is the sad side of this story. On Dec. 8, 2002, my younger cousin (then just a few weeks shy of 18) shot and killed my aunt and uncle at their farm here in Kentucky. It is ironic, as they had been in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, and here it was that the greatest danger came to them at home and from their own son. There is a complex number of reasons of why this happened, many of them emotionally charged, but it boils down (very strikingly so) to the neglect of Eph. 6:4- "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." While they showed the outward appearance of being religious (they went to church, would attend my family's church when they visited, sent their kids to Bible camp), in the home they acted differently. Unfortunately, they taught my cousins that there were no absolutes, that we must be "tolerant" of all religions and philosophies, and that it is through experience and not through rules that we find the best pathway of life.

The real tragedy is that, for all my aunt and uncle did, for all the humanitarian efforts they made, for all the places they traveled to, they lived and died without Christ. I remember once, before I was converted, looking at a collage of pictures and photos and seeing a rendering of (what men think looked like) Jesus. Even then, I wondered why they had a picture of Him when they never really talked about Him.

Th Lord gave me many opportunities to witness to my aunt and uncle and cousins. While the church the family attended was PCUSA, I got the impression that they were far more liberal than their church. I remember praying for them fervently and seeking to be a witness in both word and deed. I was sharpened theologically and spiritually as I would interact with them and study on my own such things at the exclusivity of Christ, the authority and inerrancy of the Bible, and faith in Christ versus works righteousness. After my aunt and uncle were murdered, as my family and I stayed at a long-time friend's house in case my younger cousin came for us too, I asked myself, "Did I say enough? Why weren't they converted?" While I had not yet grasped the truth of God's sovereign election, I knew two things, and they were what comforted my soul in those dark, cold weeks of mid-December: 1. I couldn't convert them. It was my job to pray for them and be a witness. 2. I had done my job.

Eccl. 7:2-3 says, "Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; And the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better."

This was true in my case. I took note that outward religion divorced from a living, breathing relationship with Christ is meaningless. I saw that one can be moral before the eyes of society and yet in the secret of one's home live a completely opposite life. I learned the importance of redeeming the time and speaking to others about Christ and eternity, for life is but a vapor. And I experienced the loss of unconverted loved ones, something I will have to face in the future, unless God does an amazing work.

I will leave them to God, but that does not take away the sadness I feel upon occasion when something reminds me of my aunt and uncle. I have had multiple opportunities to witness to my cousins. The younger is in prison for life without possibility of parole until 2028. The older is cynical, confused, undisciplined, and worldly. But my heart goes out to them, and I pray that they will turn to Christ, for He alone can satisfy their souls and save them from eternal destruction. They are not outside of God's reach...


At August 13, 2008 at 7:54 AM , Blogger Darby said...

Marie, I'd like to get a dose of you everyday. I love your transparency and truth. What a powerful post and the best part is that is a real story about real people and YOU. Thanks!! I'm encouraged this morning to be bold & unashamed of the Gospel!


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