Locations & Times

A Cat, An Apartment, and Some Land

by Donny Abbott on April 08, 2024

“Growing up all I wanted was a cat, an apartment, and some land.”

That’s a great line, isn’t it? And no, it’s not a lyric from a country song but instead were the words of my wife’s 22-year-old cousin. As a family, we gathered in our church prayer room to honor and remember her dad, who had tragically died a month earlier. Her father’s passing was sudden and completely unexpected. For ten minutes, we all sat, riveted, and listened as she, through tears, poured out her heart to God.

Of all the spaces at our church, the prayer room might be the most sacred. It is here that people come and, in their willful desire to be closer to God, offer their prayers written on prayer tags or in silent whispers. This cousin’s prayer of lament was moving and heart-wrenching and poignant and meaningful. Whatever other descriptor you want to put on it… it was that. She mournfully described how the very person she would go to in challenging life situations was no longer in her world. Her words were rich and the wisdom she conveyed through her grief was something I’ll never forget. It was through her father’s passing that we were all reminded of the hard truths of how fragile life is and what is most important in life. Jesus’ brother James captures this fragility by writing:

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

— James 4:14

There was a short time twenty years ago when I was on staff at a church in Bellevue, Washington. Bellevue is a city just east of Seattle, and outside of Bellevue is the beautiful Lake Sammamish. It was here that I decided to try my hand at rowing, or “crew” as it is often known. It was a beginner’s class that began at 5:30 in the morning. So, twice a week, seven middle-aged women and I would gather to row on the lake for an hour and a half. These early morning rows were just gorgeous. As the sun rose, it would give light to the numerous waterfowl who were enjoying their early morning swims. Revealed also was the mist that hung what seemed like eight to twelve feet above the water. And then, as the sun rose higher, the mist would slowly disappear, giving way to a memory that has become etched into my mind.

In other verses, our fragility is described as being like a shadow (Psalm 102:11), like breath (Psalm 144:4), or even like grass (Psalm 103:15). Things that are around for just a brief moment and then gone. And so it is with our lives. We are reminded of our fragility whenever we get sick or inconvenienced in a particular way, but especially in the passing of a loved one. It’s in death that we become painfully aware of our mortality and our need for something beyond this world as we explore the depths of our sorrow. It’s also here we can be assured that even in death, God’s love prevails. In fact, that is exactly what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church of Rome some 2,000 years ago amidst severe religious persecution that took place under the tyrannical rule of the Roman Emperors. Paul was reminding the Christians in Rome that:

“If God is for us, who can be against us?...Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.”
— Romans 8:31, 35-39

God’s love is the source of our hope today. 

My wife’s cousin ended her prayer room lament by stating, “But in the end, I’ve learned all that I want is You.” In that statement, she offers us all a heartfelt reminder of what is most important in life and reflects the greatest commandment, which is to love God and love others. God and people; two things that are eternal.

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