Today I placed the last school picture of my son into the frame his grandmother had given him when he was in Kindergarten. I can remember when there was just one photo in that frame and it seemed like a lifetime until it would be filled with pictures. The years went by and more pictures were added. I loved looking at that frame and seeing how my sweet boy had grown each year. I’d read the familiar verse each time from Jeremiah 29:11 and pray about the plans God had for Joseph. I couldn’t wait to see what God was going to do with his life! And then September 5th happened.
The plan was left incomplete. Unfinished.
It is a difficult thing to accept that your child is no longer a part of your present. But it’s an equally difficult thing to accept that your child will not be a part of your future. I had plans for my child, as I’m sure all parents do. Joe was smart, driven, hard-working and I knew those traits would serve him well in his career someday. I longed to see him graduate and tell him how proud I was of him, knowing all the sacrifice it took to get to that moment. I imagined the day I would dance with him at his wedding and invite a new daughter into the family. I dreamed about the day I would hold his son or daughter for the first time and beam with pride as a grandmother. All of those are wonderful things to dream about getting to do. But the harsh reality is this:
Those were MY plans. Not God’s.
That is a hard truth to come to grips with. One that I struggle with on a daily basis. One I have questioned God about more times than I care to admit. And one that requires a most extraordinary amount of faith and trust in a still-loving and faithful God.
I’m reminded of that each time I visit the cemetery. Buried next to Joe is little Hannah Grace who died at 2 days old. Just a few spots down is another little girl who died of cancer before she turned 6. Andrew is nearby and didn’t make it to his 14th birthday. All seemingly too young and leaving a life unfinished. So many plans left undone. I have so many questions for these families who have walked the road I’m now on. I want to hear their stories and about the plans they had for their child, like I did. My heart quickly becomes burdened with so many emotions.
But in those moments of doubt and guilt and pain and grief, God has reminded me of these important truths:
- Joe was never really mine. He was on loan from God and I was blessed enough to be his mother while he lived on earth.
- God sees the big picture. HE has the plan, not me with my limited perspective.
- Joe’s life was exactly as long as God meant it to be. There is nothing I could have done to extend it, even by a second.
Job 14:5 confirms this when he says, “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.” (NLT) Even David declared in the Psalms, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Ps. 139:16 NLT) It is on days I doubt God’s plan that I need to hear these words the most.
God did have a plan for Joe. And even though it wasn’t what I would have chosen, it was still the most beautiful plan ever imagined. It’s the same plan He has for you and me. It’s one full of hope and a future that began from the beginning of the world and was completed when Christ breathed the words, “It is finished.” Because the plan of sacrifice, redemption and love was complete.
Each day I tell myself the words I’d always tell Joe when he didn’t want to get out of bed: “If God woke you up today, He’s not finished with you.” And as much as it seems like it was Joe’s journey that was left unfinished, it’s really those of us still here on this earth who aren’t done. Joe finished the race. His victory was won. His plan complete.
My hope and my future rests in the words of Scripture, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Until then, there’s still work to be done.