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From the Pulpit

Our friend Audra and  God’s front door

Goodbye Audra. We are sorry you’ve had to go! You have been a beautiful daughter and sister, a wonderful friend, a fantastic student, an accomplished musician, and a great school-day “taxi-driver” (the sisters will miss that).
When the news spread last Thursday night, it ruptured a well of emotions deep beneath the surface in the order of a gulf oil spill. Shock. Grief. Fear. Disgust. A freak accident had taken one of our own and, as the tragedy was spilling into all our lives, we pulled our children a little closer. An entire community of friends and neighbors shook their heads and clutched their mouths, unable to contemplate a mother or father’s next move in the face of this catastrophe. In those moments, all our thoughts and prayers and laments carried with them the name “Brownell.”
For one week we have shared ourselves in grief with Scott, Diane, Danae, and Elena in the loss of their dearest Audra. To the family I wish to say: We have lost sleep, lost our appetites, and lost a daughter together. Stories we have shared of the unique person she has been make us smile. The realization that we can no longer tell new stories makes us cry. However, a village such as ours marches together. We stand shoulder to shoulder to offer, with all the breath in our lungs, our songs of sympathy and support. We stand heel to toe, as far as your watery eyes can see, to give our embrace to your weary shoulders. It takes no rehearsal to do such a thing. Quite simply, we are here for you.
We share not only common concern, but also common complaints and common questions. If you are like me, one of your first reactions was to stage a protest at God’s front door. I was angry on the Brownell’s behalf. Nothing about this makes any sense from where we are.
I learned a few years ago that God loves honest questions; in fact, He welcomes them. Why else would God give to His own family a name that means “Struggles With God” (Israel)? God invites us to wrestle with Him. Far from betraying a doubting heart, questions prove one’s love, demonstrate one’s faith, and display trust. Moses argued with God at Sinai (Exodus 33). Abraham disputed God’s very motives (Gen 18:25). Even Jesus found Himself in a place of despairing doubt (Matt 27:46). Perhaps these are good places to be in life, for there we find good company. So, I decided to go; that is, to God’s doorstep.
“What is God doing?” I sputtered. “Is He in control, does He care, or is He just careless? How does this in any way display His wisdom, or grace?” Though I wanted to know in that moment which of those was true, I suspected that it is one of the devil’s favorite tricks to get people to focus on one truth to the exclusion of another. No thought I had entertained seemed fitting for the God I thought I knew, and the more I tried to limit Him to either, the more He slipped away altogether.
As I brooded over my protest, I grew deeper in my conviction that it takes more faith to ask than it takes to fear knocking at God’s door in the first place. But, I also realized that I was coming to His gate with empty hands. He certainly owes us no answers, and we need not use ultimatums. Furthermore, as Athol Dickson says, “It will take faith to be ready for whatever answer comes, and faith to persevere with more questions if the answer is not understood.”
I stood resolutely and hollered for Him to let me in. In my confusion, I hadn’t seen what was already underway. As the eyes of my heart focused, I recognized that God was standing out at the gate, with Scott, Diane, Danae, and Elena beating on His chest, from within the embrace of His arms. He had run out to meet them, weeping bitterly as they came to Him. He told them of how Audra had been so concerned for them in their sorrow and fear and regret, and that she wanted them to know how much she loves them. She knows so much of what we do not, and she assures us that He will renew all things. He was to let them know that while she longs for the day of resurrection, as everyone in Heaven does, she is now more certain of its coming than ever before. And when that day arrives and we are more alive than ever, we will all share the joy of His presence together, without ever hearing another “goodbye.”
Thank you, Audra!
Until the day we see you again, PEACE to us all.

Chad Wight, The Journey Church

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