A year ago my family and I were on a short vacation when something both bizarre and beautiful took place. I want to share that wonderful occurrence with you.
It was night. I was out on our vacation condo patio, overlooking the beach and ocean as my family slept inside. I lazily looked down at my phone and opened Facebook on my phone. The app alerted me of various people’s birthdays taking place that day as it was past midnight. Surprisingly I found my dad on the list. It told me that Mike, my dad, would have been 67 that day if he was still alive. Not unlike the breaking waves in the distance, that same, familiar feeling of loss swept over me as I realized it was indeed May 3rd, my father’s birthday. He died in my arms when I was 19 years old from a sudden heart attack, and May 3rd was always a strong reminder of his absence.
It wasn’t so much my own loss that I felt, but my children’s. Grandfathers play such an important role in filling in the gaps that fathers miss in communicating the Father’s heart to our kids. I still have a hard time accepting that my kids will grow up never knowing their grandfather for themselves. It is true that ignorance can be bliss sometimes, and my kids are blissfully unaware of what they are missing out on with not having my dad around.
So, I grieve for my kids, but I also grieve for my dad himself. I know he is immeasurably happy on the other side, but the three greatest kids in the world AREN’T on the other side; they are on this side. And he is missing out on them.
As these losses dawned on me once again I said to the Lord, “Man, my dad really missed out.” Immediately, I felt the Lord say, “No he isn’t. He is seeing all of this. He laughs with you when you and Christine are laughing at your kids with delight. He knows his grandchildren as well as you know your children.”
A moment later I was distracted by a woman yelling for help down by the ocean, and never went back to that conversation with the Lord (I helped the police find the woman in the dark, everything turned out okay), as I went to bed not long after.
That next morning (still the 3rd of May), we headed out to the beach. After waves and sand we made our way to the condo pool and continued playing. After a few hours I headed back to our room to shower.
No long after, Christine and the kids came back to the room. They told me that while they were at the pool this kind, humble, older man befriended the kids. The kids kept talking about this man and relating to me what he was like. Though Christine never met my dad, she said that this gentleman was like what she imagined my dad to be like. Then Christine told me that the man’s name. Can you guess?
Can you guess how old he was?
He just happened to be 67 years old. And I hadn’t told her about my conversation with the Lord the night before.
God sent a man named Mike that is 67 years old, on my dad’s 67th birthday, to the exact same pool my family was in, where he happened to give attention, affection, and love to my children in such a profound way that it caused my wife to be reminded of my father…all to confirm what He told me the night before.
But here is what is even more profound. Our loved ones really have joined something the scripture refer to as the Cloud of Witnesses. Believe it. Somehow, they can see us and follow our lives. They take joy in us and are cheering us on to obtain the Prize. We may be oblivious to them, but they are well aware of us. Everyone you have ever loved and lost are standing with you, rooting you on from Heavenly Places. Joining them are every Jesus-serving hero you have ever had, plus every angel, and then the grand finale Himself; The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. He is with you, and loved ones are with Him. Therefore, Immanuel, God with us, also means that all that are with Him are also with us. There is an innumerable heavenly host that is behind you, loving you, and praying for you. You are not alone.