I'm sitting down with the folder of the certificates by my side. They are very official looking, they freeze in time a life once lived, now taken. They capture the facts of Dec 17th 2007 in unfeeling words, the official paper only adding to the insensitivity of the words typed on the page. Immediate cause of death: Respiratory Failure, 23 days. Condition leading to the cause listed: Metastatic Breast Cancer, 4 years. So few words to capture her life. I'm struck that only the cancer gets recognized in the end. Its final victory emblazed for ever by the state of Texas. No mention of who she was, what she meant, her family, her accomplishments, her faith, her love, her laughter, her unending love for me and the boys, her impact on you. There is no block to check on these things. No scale to rate how much she meant to us. Those are left for us to carry on. The State only records the facts. Her home address, where she died, where she is buried, her parents names, her age, and her ssn. It is a cold document that I'm sure is filed somewhere, read by someone who reads 100s a day. Does he pause on Andrea's and wonder who she was? Does he feel how special she was amongst all the other death certificates he is filing? Andrea June Ravella, age 45, surviving spouse James J. Ravella. That is us. One deceased on surviving.
Funny as I read that word surviving. That is about right. It seems to capture me right now at this moment. I'm surviving, not living, not loving, not laughing, just surviving. I eat to survive. I sleep to survive. I look forward to living and not surviving. To being someone special to someone else. To have someone need me and look into my eyes and love me. To have a purpose in life. To join with her and serve God. To take what was so painful and allow God to use it for His glory. I want to do more then survive, I want to live God's will for my life. And I believe I will know her because I will be able to trust her.
This was Andrea's example to us. She had faith, faith that truly could move a mountain, but above that she had trust. She had faith in the healing she sought but her trust was not tied to the outcome. She knew God could move that mountain but she also knew God’s love was not dependent on it moving. That His love for her was not conditional. There in lies the trust she exhibited. She was strong enough in her faith to tell anyone that she would be healed but she trusted enough to lay in the ICU in absolute peace. Trust existed in her as a separate entity from her faith and her desires. That is how she laid in that bed. That is how she went back to chemo week after week, that is how she looked at scan after scan that questioned her prayers and the faith she placed in those prayers and the God see sought for relief. That is what we saw that we did not understand, trust separate from faith. It presented itself to us as unwavering faith, but it was not just faith. It was trust in God that was detached from an expectation or outcome. It was a trust that was built upon a God she had known and sought her whole life. It was a trust built upon her countless hours of reading God's word and time spent in prayer seeking Him. It was a trust built upon past accomplishments and failures. A trust built upon an understanding of what God did for her. A trust built upon a relationship started in a little girl bout 4-5 yrs old, at the alter of a small unimpressive church on 33rd street in Wichita Falls Texas. When God sent His spirit to indwell this little girl. The little girl you heard singing my past blog. It was a trust she learned at an early age. Expressed early in our marriage when we prayed for an assignment. Andrea told her dad, “We are praying for a specific assignment but if we don’t get it we know God has something better for us.” Seemingly simple words but let the thought sink in. The faith to ask, with the trust to accept.
If I could be so bold these are the words I feel God is telling us though Andrea's life.
"I want you to fully enjoy the blessings of the cross, it promises are true and its gifts are sure. But I also don't want you to flee from what the cross asks of you. I do not ask anything more of you for your salvation then your faith in what was done on the cross. But I will ask of you to show your trust in me so that I may reach others. Allow me to bless you through the cross. Allow me to grow you through life's difficulties. Enjoy the rewards of your faith but don't flee from me when I ask you to trust Me. You can do this when I abide in you. Andrea was small for a reason; I used her apparent weakness in the worlds view to put an explanation point on her example. I have plans to prosper you and not harm you. Do you trust those words? That is the question I have for you today. Do you trust me?" Think before you answer. Because I need people with faith but more I need those who trust me to be my witness. Will you trust me? If you take this step you will find I will give you all you need. If you take this step and move from faith into trust, I will send you opportunities to show this trust to others. For there are so many in need of this lesson. There will be hard times, unanswered prayers, events you do not understand. I will challenge you to move your relationship with me from one built on receiving from me to one built on laying yourself down for me. Yes I know this may scare you but do you trust me? Life will be difficult not because I don't love you or have left you, far from it. I send them so you can be all that I have planned for you. That you will realize the reason and purpose for which I spoke you into existence. I need you. Because out of your trust which can only be proven of worth in a difficulty, you will be fulfilled. Because you will be living in my will. And trust me there is no where else you would rather be. If you only knew what awaits you would seek this with all your heart, but if you knew fully what I have for you there would be no need for faith and trust would just be. I could revel it all but I choose not to. Do you trust me that this is right? I'm asking you to believe by faith and trust through that faith. Trust me there is no where else you will feel more complete. There is no where else you will feel such joy, not just happiness but pure joy. Free from circumstances and free from conditions. Then you will feel the comfort in the shadow of my wings. There you will feel the peace that surpasses all understanding. There you will find Me. You will shine to a world searching frantically for peace and happiness. The world is not looking for the answer in me, but you will point them to me, because you will be "strange." You will be unexplainable. You will be like Andrea. People were drawn to her for reasons they did not understand. They came to her not understanding why other then they saw what they needed in this unexpected place. That was me they saw. That was me using a willing daughter to help others. That is my power made perfect in her weakness. Did you see it? Did you get a glimpse of who I am? I was screaming through Andrea's silence in the ICU. I was screaming through her smiles in the chemo room. I was hollering at you through her gentle yet strong acceptance of the race I laid out for her. Do not be deceived she was not forgotten, I held her in my hand every step of the way because in her faith and trust she allowed me to. It was not Andrea that you saw, it was me. Allow yourself the fulfillment of drinking from the well of living water. Allow yourself to experience a love in suffering or disappointment for the words suffering and disappointments are fleeting. They can not transcend to eternity, they will be left behind. Allow them to take you closer to Me and things eternal that really do matter. But you will have to first know me, then trust the one you know and not what you may see or experience. I know this is hard; did not my Son struggle in the garden? But did He not choose what was eternal over what was temporary? Allow yourself to fall back in faith trusting I will catch you. Won't you come to me? Won't you allow me to show you how great I truly am? How far above your thoughts and expectations I am. How deep how wide and how tall my love for you is. Won't you allow me to show you the depth of love I expressed in my Son's death? Allow yourself to see my love for Andrea in her death. Yes she is gone from you but her example still tugs at you. It still calls to you because that is my voice you are hearing. I love you. I only desire you to see the truth of the world you live in. That it is just a flash, a vapor in the wind. There is a truth exists beyond what you see, feel taste and touch. This truth is unseen yet so real. So very real. You can only experience it fully by faith in me and by trusting me when life's inevitable challenges come.
Won't you trust me today?"