The Quiet Influence of a Saint

Today there were thirty-five obituaries in the Dallas Morning News. One of them was my friend. I am amazed at the number of incredible saints that God has brought into my life. Perhaps God knows that I desperately need their courageous examples. Becky Matthews was one of those saints that inspired me. She died Saturday night, September 5th. The obituary accurately portrays her courage and attitude.

Her faith in Christ allowed her to persevere through a seventeen year battle with cancer, never complaining and always encouraging others.

Think about that. Seventeen years. I never heard her complain. I never heard her question her fate. She fought with courage and dignity until the fight was clearly lost. And then she simply accepted that she would go ahead and wait for the family reunion to come. I am so humbled by Becky’s example. I remember her smiling when I knew she was suffering. Encouraging when she was the one who could have expected encouragement. I can’t help but think that if the critics of faith saw more Becky Matthews they would be a bit less inclined to dismiss Christianity. The preachers on TV get the attention but it is the faithful servants like Becky that God uses in ways that she probably never imagined.

Another line in the obituary is necessarily understated.

She devoted her life to Christ, family, loving others and raising her children.

Becky Matthews fiercely loved her children and she did an amazing job. Perhaps the greatest legacy of her life is the values, faith and integrity that she instilled in her son Jason and her daughter Julie. A single Mom raising a son and daughter is never easy. The results speak to her devotion. They are her legacy.

I have a couple of songs that I go to at times like this. One such song is by the group Diamond Rio. The title is  “God Only Cries For The Living” and here is a bit of the lyric.

God only cries for the living,
‘Cause it’s the living that are left to carry on.

That is a hard truth. The living are left with the financial and legal affairs. Disposing of personal items that generate tearful memories. And the living are left in a place that Scripture tells us is only a temporary dwelling place. Paul writes about our “dual citizenship” in his letter to the Philippians.

For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven.

Everyone knows that we have a finite time on earth. I personally believe that there is more than just my fifty-six plus whatever years I have left here. So I must decide how to navigate how I live this life while being mindful of the next. There is a balance that is implied by the concept of dual citizenship. Becky believed these words in the Gospel of John.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  (John 14, NLT)

The song from Diamond Rio echoes the belief that Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a better place.

An’ all the angels up in Heaven,
They’re not grieving because they’re gone.
There’s a smile on their faces,
‘Cause they’re in a better place…

I believe that Becky Matthews is in a better place today. I love my life on this planet. I am not anxious to leave my family and friends. But I am not afraid. This lyric from the song by Diamond Rio portrays a powerful thought.

God only cries for the living,
‘Cause it’s the living that are so far from home.

That becomes more and more real to me as I get older. I have so many family and friends that have gone ahead to their eternal home. My Dad. My Mom. My daughter. My nephew. Countless friends. A new addition this weekend. I miss them so much. But I rejoice for them because I am  realizing more and more that I am the one who is so far from home. You won’t need to cry for me when I get there.