In the Midst of Pain

It was already a challenging evening. Pete was 1 1/2 hours away at school. I had the kids all by myself. After walking to school to pick them up there were lunch bags to empty, a dishwasher-full of clean dishes to put away. Then dinner. Piano lessons (at home, thankfully!). A load of laundry. Showers. I didn’t have the energy to do it. It looked like the end was in sight. The 2 youngest were in bed. Then I got a text…

Arlynne brought a lot of things to our lives. Her contagious smile. Her loud laugh. Her passion–good and bad. The biggest thing she has brought us is this band of friends. People who she has connected with. There are the teens that she meet at school and church. There were her friends from the mission she served with. Then there were the kids. She LOVED kids. And kids loved her. Her mentor told me about the day she took Arlynne with her to her daughter’s soccer game. Arlynne was soon surrounded by kids and she was playing with them. Engaging them. Loving them. It exuded from her.

Arlynne had spent the last couple of years of her life teaching Sunday School so it seemed natural that she should go on a missions trip that would involve kids. And that is what she did. During her last week on this earth she was a counsellor at a kids camp. And she met a very special young man. Not a love interest. At least not for her. I believe that he may have had a case of “puppy love”. She told us, during her last phone call to us, that he reminded her of her brother, Josiah. They are almost the same age and she connected with him. He mourned when she died.

Three weeks after her death, we made a trip to the area where she died. We got to connect with a number of the people she had spent her last few days with. This boy was one of them. He told me that Arlynne said he reminded her of Josiah. He got to meet her siblings. I never forgot him.

This boy was just one of the people who has made a huge impact on my life. He had recently moved with his mom from Southern Ontario to this far-north community. He became part of the church there. His mom had had cancer at one point but they seemed to be okay. I was glad that he was connected into the church there. There were people there who cared about him.

He was at camp when I went back up north in the summer of 2012. When I saw him he thought I was Karissa but he quickly placed me as being “Frenchie’s” mom and he was always around, giving me hugs. (Frenchie was Arlynne’s camp name.) We spent a lot of time together that week. He showed me the picture he had of Arlynne in his Bible. He sat beside me through a chapel time with the older kids when the camp leader, a counsellor who had preformed CPR on Arlynne the night she died and I shared about Arlynne and God’s faithfulness in spite of loss. He was the first one to give me a hug afterwards. He is a sweetheart.

He was gone for a number of months, almost a year I think. No one from the church heard from him. He had been baptized at one point and had made a stand in his faith but he stopped coming to church. I was so happy to hear that he was at camp this past summer. Each year there is an award for the camper who is basically the best friend of everyone at camp. It is called the Frenchie award and it is in honour of my daughter. I haven’t been able to come to camp for the last 2 summers but I have been able to present the award via FaceTime. I was so surprised this summer when this young man won the Frenchie award.

He and I had the chance to chat after the award ceremony. He told me about his dad who had suffered a significant injury from an ATV in recent months. He told me he hated ATVs because of what they had done to Arlynne and to his dad. He talked about his mom and how she was doing okay. I was so happy to talk to him. He holds a special place in my heart. He promised to stay in touch and he is one of my FaceBook friends. We don’t often talk. He is young. I am, well, not young and we live so very far apart.

The text I received last night was from the camp director. She wanted me to know that this precious young man lost his mom last night. She died of cancer. The director wanted me to know because she thought I would know how to pray for him. I would know better than most people. I don’t know about that. I do know that I have experienced loss like he has. And it is breaking my heart. I see this beautiful young man who first had to experience the loss of a friend and now has to bury his mom. I can’t begin to explain it. To make matters worse (if that is possible), his father lives a few provinces away. I am truly frightened about where he will end up. What scares me even more, though, is how he will see God in this.

As an adult who has grown up in the church even I have trouble seeing God’s hand sometimes. Life is too unfair. Too painful. It is hard to imagine that God is doing anything. The temptation would be to believe that He is just a cosmic game master who gets His amusement from moving us, puny little humans, around a chessboard of His making. That is what the enemy wants us to think. I don’t believe it though. Even though I had and still sometimes have a hard time accepting that “everything works together for good” (Romans 8:28) I trust God too much not to believe it. I don’t believe that He has promised us a cushy life of comfort until we go on to live a cushy life of comfort in Heaven. I know that He has promised us that this life will be tough. There will always be pain. There will always be poverty. There will always be challenges. We live in a sin-tainted world and sin’s affects are all around us.

This leads to the beauty of it though. Even though we struggle. Even though we hurt. Even though our hearts break, HE IS THERE. He is there when we enter the world. He will be there when we exit it. Romans 8:38-39 says “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(NIV). This verse is in the same chapter that says that everything works for God’s good. I know that death will separate us from our loved ones for a time but death is absolutely incapable of separating us from God. The powers of death were broken at Calvary when my Jesus died and then came back to life again.

I have been crying. I cried for this precious boy last night. I have been crying for him today. I don’t know what the future holds for him. He probably doesn’t either. But God does. He called this young man a long time ago and He is still there for him now. The only thing that I can do is pray. Pray that God will show this young man, His young man, peace. Pray that he will not blame God but rest in Him. Pray that the people of God will surround him, comfort him and lead him when he truly needs it. And he needs it now.

I feel helpless. I am sitting at a computer 17 hours away from my young, hurting friend. Pete and I prayed for him last night. I spent time on my face praying for him this morning. God has connected us for a reason. Of that I am absolutely certain. I don’t know what it is. My time in his life may already be over. In the meantime, though, I will trust God’s voice to keep directing me on this difficult path called “Life”. His ways are perfect and I have chosen to walk in them.