By Alex Anderson, Senior Associate Pastor at Bayside Community Church
While I sat with the family in the surgical waiting area, I saw the elevator doors open. It was the surgeon. As he walked the twenty-five feet or so from the elevator to the waiting room, he was looking at the floor as though he was searching for something, maybe the next words to say. When he came into the waiting area, all eyes were on him. He was an older gentleman with many years of saving lives. He immediately sat down in one of the chairs and began to describe in layman’s terms the very difficult and tedious aspects of the surgery.
“The aneurism had grown to the size of her stomach and was simply impossible to repair in the few precious moments we had to work with her,” he said sadly. In addition, he said that she had apparently suffered a heart attack.
Then I heard it. What the gentle surgeon said next stood out to me like a hammer striking a large bell. He said, “She never gave up the fight; she just simply gave out.” As these words rang through our ears, we all knew she had gone on to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
It took only a few moments for the reality of that statement, “She never gave up the fight; she just simply gave out,” to sink into me like warm rays of sunshine breaking through on a cold and snowy day. This lady’s life was a living testimony of that statement. She was an eighty-year-old grandmother with a love for God and for her family, who compelled her family who compelled her to be a “force to be reckoned with.” I watched as her children and grandchildren began to weigh out the tremendous loss and the impact to their daily lives.
She had recently had cataract surgery so she could continue to drive herself and be present in the lives of those God had entrusted to her care.
She had been the spiritual matriarch to this large family.
I watched two very big, strong grandsons begin to weep as they felt the loss of her presence in their lives. She was in their hearts at such a deep level that it could only be expressed with tears. I said to these young men as I hugged them that they needed to “let it go” and cry. I told them she was watching them from Heaven now and needed to see if all her hard work and prayers for their lives would continue to pay off, and that it would bring her joy to see them miss her. I asked them never to forget all the life-giving, Godly advice she poured into their ears and hearts over the last twenty years.
As I drove home from the hospital, I wondered about my life. I wondered if it would be said of me one day, “He never gave up the fight; he just simply gave out.” I realized that the “never give up” was about love and commitment, a sometimes rare commodity today. And that “simply giving out” was only about resources and not heart.
As I prayed, traveling east on Manatee Avenue, I recognized how she was able to stay so strong all those eighty years, even up until the end of her life. Her secret is found in the Bible, the book of Hebrews in chapter12 verse 2. It states:
“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”
It’s the ongoing daily relationship with Jesus who died, but is not dead now. As the verse states, He is sitting in Heaven at God the Father’s right hand. Why is Jesus there and not here? He is praying for us. He is there to ensure we do not give up the fight.
My prayer and hope for you this Easter is that you will find a great church (there are many in Sarasota and Manatee counties including my own, Bayside Community Church) and go. Not for a religious activity, but to have an authentic experience with the God of the universe. I know it may feel a little scary, (it was for me when I first went for that purpose) but do it. God is real. He is nothing but pure love and wants a long-term, even eternal relationship with you. And if you do decide to have that relationship with Him, I hope it will be said one day that you “never gave up; you only gave out.”
To your spiritual health,
Alex E. Anderson
Author of the book, Dangerous Prayers
Dedicated to Virginia (Ginny) Cognac