Mom punched in the numbers and waited for the ambulance to arrive. She was having intense abdominal pains and the vomiting wouldn’t stop.
I got the call, and for the next six weeks sat by her bed and watched her slip away. We talked about everything from the distribution of her material possessions to the best shampoo for shiny hair.
She reminded me to make sure her grandchildren got everything she had planned for in her will, and to make sure I wore lip liner when I went out in public.
We watched her “stories” on the overhead television.
“Isn’t this wonderful that we know what’s coming and we get to spend these last few days together,” she said.
It was wonderful in one sense, but there was nothing easy about it.
Excruciating pain eased only with morphine.
Vomiting the contents of a blocked intestine.
Loss of dignity for a woman who wouldn’t even go out of the house without makeup and matching shoes.
I just finished reading the biography of Nelson Mandela– Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage about his fight against apartheid in South Africa. He said that he had many teachers in his life, but the greatest of them all was prison—that prison molded him into the man we know today. Mandela said he learned about life and leadership from many sources, but the twenty-seven years he spent in prison became the crucible that burned away all that extraneous.
Richard Stengel, who wrote his biography, asked Mandela how prison had changed him. How the man who went into prison in 1962 was different from the man who walked out in 1990.
His reply? “I came out mature.”
I think that’s what happened to me during those last six weeks with mom.
A few weeks after mom had left for heaven, I was speaking at a conference with my ministry partners Gwen Smith and Mary Southerland. Mary looked at me and said, “You seem to be at peace.”
“I’m not sure if I’m at peace or just numb,” I replied.
I was still numb from mom’s death, exhausted from the six weeks of watching her fade away, and wrung out from the pressures of being the lone child taking care of all the details. But there was more.
“As odd as this sounds,” I replied. “I think I grew up over the past two months.”
It might seem strange for someone my age to say, “I think I grew up.” But that was the best way I could describe what I was feeling. I echoed Mandela…“I came out mature.”
Oh friend, we will all go through difficult times. Hard situations. Painful circumstances.
Jesus promised it: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
But don’t allow yourself to grow bitter.
Allow God to make you better.
To grow you up.
To settle you down.
To mature you spiritually and emotionally into the person He’s created you to be.
Sometimes I wish there was another way. But even Jesus had to face the cross.
I spend a lot of time in airports. And if I am flying on United, I might have to go from North Carolina to Texas get to New Hampshire. If I am flying Delta, I might have to fly from Charlotte to Atlanta to get to Chicago. All this going backwards seems like a waste of time, fuel, and money to me.
But the truth is, the airlines have hubs. Places where connections are made. Sometimes I have to go south in order to go north.
And friend, sometimes God has to take us down to the hub of difficulty in order to get us to the destination of spiritual and emotional maturity.
It could be that the painful death of a dream will give birth to new and better dream–one better than you ever imagined.
It could that be your lowest point in life may lead to the highest place God wants to take you.
So let’s lock arms and grow up a little more today.
How has God used a difficult situation in your life to “grow you up”? Leave a comment. Let’s compare notes.