As mere humans, we fail to represent the Son of God perfectly. Sometimes, with rare exception, we wear His glory like a sacred mantle draped over us. I once witnessed such an exception when God spoke to me through a living parable.
Jessamyn entered the church sanctuary smiling from ear to ear. Hymns of praise swelled as her father Jeff pushed her wheelchair down the aisle until she finally rested directly in front of me where I stood on the platform with the other worship leaders.
Like an aura encircling her, Jessamyn’s countenance effused the radiance of God. The love of God reflected – was it from her angelic visage? Was it from her pure heart? Was the source her innocent, unspoiled love for God; or was it His undefiled, perfect love for us shining through her, streaming like moonlight to illuminate and awe? Joy radiated from her. What inspired such elation on the face of one who could not raise her spindly arms in praise or clap her lily-white hands in rhythm? Her lungs, labored to fill with air. Her tongue couldn’t give voice to the adoration written upon her sweet face.
Gazing down from the raised platform, my eyes riveted upon her crumpled form rocking back and forth, leaning to the side in her wheelchair. In those precious and few moments, God revealed His love through her smile, unveiling a little more of Himself—a revelation of the glory of God, personified in frail human form. In that instant, Jessamyn taught me more about the joy and the glory of the Lord than I had ever known.
Jess entered this world with an array of developmental delays and physical challenges that left her unable to speak, walk, or function independently. Three surgeries as an infant and eyeglasses in elementary school pretty much corrected her sight. Enumerating for me a list of Jess’s disorders, her mother Judy observed, “We take our whole chromosomes for granted. All her issues were rooted in a one-of-a-kind chromosomal anomaly: a deletion within the 21st chromosome.”
Although something within Jess’s genetic makeup was “missing,” she possessed an abundance of godly joy. On that Sunday morning, seventeen years after the death of my eighteen-year-old daughter Stacey, I saw the Lord reflected in Jess’s iridescent blue eyes and sparkling smile. She carried a message, a message that quickened my heart and settled my mind.
Long ago, when faced with end-of-life decisions on behalf of Stacey, I had pleaded:
“Father, You must receive glory.
Whether Stacey lives or dies, You must be glorified.
Unless I know You’ll receive glory, I cannot endure something this horrible.”
One of my greatest fears was that if I made a decision contrary to God’s will regarding end-of-life decisions, I would interfere with God’s glory. Although we sometimes honestly struggle to discern His will, one day we will see clearly what today we see through a clouded lens. “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”[i] In the meantime, God receives glory when we answer his call to pray for the fallen, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, mend the broken.
God spoke through Jess straight to my heart: “Either way, it was ok. It is ok.” I finally understood that although we could not have provided curative treatment for our daughter, it would have been fine with God for us to provide palliative care for as long as she continued breathing. Had we allowed life-support to continue, God would have continued to teach me love lessons through my child. In His omniscience, God alone knows of the epiphanies that may have
taken place when He might have caused His love to shine out from Stacey, just as it had beamed forth from Jessamyn’s countenance that Sabbath Day morning.
Jess shared Stacey’s love for music and often smiled in response to hearing songs of praise. Nevertheless, unlike Jess, Stacey could no longer have heard those voices flowing with praise. She could not have seen our arms raised toward heaven. Her massive brain injury gradually stole everything from her. Still, the psalmist declares that all of heaven and earth cry out in praise of Him. Stacey’s praise, if God would have graciously revealed it to us through her physical body, would have been a miraculous manifestation.
Within Stacey’s soul, the part of her that is God-breathed and eternal, a melody might have arisen in perfect harmony with that of the angels. At that focal point, our natural sight would fail to see that which only God sees. Our ears fail to hear heavenly melodies, while limited to staccatos of earthly notes. We rarely, if ever, see the outward manifestation of what takes place within the eternal soul, especially of one so severely, physically limited. We are not privy to such sacred intimate knowledge of one another.
Charles Spurgeon describes the difference between how God sees His redeemed creatures and how we see one another:
You see his outward attire, not his inner self—you see the earthly tabernacle, but the spirit newborn, immortal and divine—you see not that. Howbeit, God does. Or, if you have spiritual discernment to perceive the spiritual creature, you only see it as it is veiled by reason of the flesh, and beclouded by the atmosphere of this world. But He sees it as it will appear, when it shall be radiant like unto Christ, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. God sees the poorest, the least proficient disciple as a man in Christ, a perfect man
come unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, such indeed as he will be in that day when he shall see Christ, for then he shall be like Him as He is.[i]
Jesus promised, “When you do it unto one of the least of these my brethren you have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40). When I fixed upon God’s countenance—as reflected through Jessamyn’s earthy vessel—the Father returned my gaze through her eyes. I realized He would have honored either decision—to continue palliative care or to remove life support. In the end, He drew my daughter to Himself.
My soul quaked. My heart broke open. Fault lines formed as we slowly split apart and pulled away from each other; Stacey’s soul buckled upward, mine thrusted downward. Yet, day by day, God drew me ever closer to Himself. Our intimacy runs deeper now and fills every void, cementing my heart to His. He indwells me. He engraves His image on my poor heart and it swells with a soul-filled heavenly melody.
One need not travel great distances or stretch uncomfortably to find God. His all-surpassing power is evident in all that can be seen or heard or felt—His creation speaks of His love and testifies to His presence and power. God has chosen to swell within the hearts of those who approach Him in the name of His son, Jesus Christ. In so doing, God has made the souls of His children His heaven of heavens.
When—without pretense or selfish motive—we look to God, our beauty enthralls the King because He sees Christ in us; and because of His love for us, we love Him even more. Oneing my soul to Him, I one myself to all who call Him Father, not only to my dear Stacey, but to all who now behold Him in His Holy City, “the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”[ii] And I can hardly wait for the final consummation of my soul to His for “Dear friends, we are already God's children, but He has not
yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.”[i]
He has proven His faithfulness and I have come to trust in His mercy and believe His love—the love which flows from His heavenly throne and spills forth from the Bible I hold in my hands.
Jeff and Judy, Jessamyn’s parents illustrated God’s love and glorified Him as they cared for their daughter. God knew I sought only to honor my daughter’s life and His will. God replaced my fears with the understanding that when we keep Him first in our lives, He leads us by His grace through the dark shadows of this world. I discovered His glory shines through my love for our daughter, whether she is here with me, or in heaven with Him. Jessamyn taught me that lesson. By the grace of God alone, Stacey and Jessamyn both now sit in His presence. By His grace, we share His fellowship. Joy swells. His glory overflows.
I know this earthly tent—this temporary tabernacle for my eternal soul—shall soon dissolve. Sin glares, failures blind. Yet, God sees Christ crowned with glory and honor. He sees me perfect in Christ. On that day when I see Jesus face to face, God will give me a crown of glory. I will cast it at the feet of Christ, the only one worthy of worship and glory.
[i] I John 3:2, 3. ESV
[i] A Sermon, (No. 1030). Delivered by C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington "THE SWORD AND THE TROWEL." Edited by C. H. SPURGEON.
Contents for January, 1872. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiV9Pb93JzUAhWIeSYKHQ7XD_IQFgg0MAI&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.blueletterbible.org%2FComm%2Fspurgeon_charles%2Fsermons%2F1030.cfm&usg=AFQjCNHBeGBeaj3JBpEnNWocMbGFOnMpLQ&sig2=24NG92DOyAkpJhVD_eB-pg. Accessed 6/1/2017.
[ii] Revelation 21:2 KJV.
[i] I Corinthians 13: