I just said goodbye to my daughter Sian. I took my Study Break in Kazakstan. For those of you who are unsure where that is so was I until a month ago. Although I spent most of my time studying in two cafes, Discovery Café in the morning from 8 am to 1 pm and Egelet Café 6-9:30 pm, I did walk Sian to and from work every day and enjoyed some of the sites of Astana with her. I am so proud of my daughter. She teaches English, transcribes TWJV messages and invests in those God sends her way. Amazing is the fact that our children grow up to be so much better than us. Sian seems more mature and better grounded than was I at her age. She sees things I never noticed when I was twenty-four. I watched her closely. The more I saw, the more I realized that she is the product of so many good influences in her life. Her mother taught her to be strong and faithful to her God. I taught her to think about Christian concepts and to challenge ideas that seemed weak and untenable. Her Grandmother taught her to pray and to trust God in every situation. But it is her Grandfather who influenced her most . I see the way she looks at him and the way she desires to learn from him. I can see what she sees. He is a strong man and seems to be unshakable in the most difficult of circumstances. I wish I were like that. I am not half the man he is, and I know it. There is something to be said for his generation. They were strong, loyal, and reliable. I think Sian inherited most of her genes from her grandparents. What genes did she inherit from me? What did her mother and I pass down to her that will prove challenging in the years to come? Our children not only get the good stuff but the bad stuff too. How will she navigate all the contributions, negative or positive, from generations before her?
Then my mind turned to Jarrid Wilson’s parents, the young Pastor from Riverside who took his own life. What genes did his parents pass down to him that could shed light on his struggles? With what did they bless him that inspired him to reach out and comfort the brokenhearted? Is there a compassion gene? Is there a depression gene? Are we bound to a genetic code that is unbreakable? That’s what the naturalists would have us believe. Yet, when a person takes his own life, we mourn. Why? Because we know life is sacred. But wait! How can life be sacred if it exists in a totally naturalistic framework? It can’t! These are mutually exclusive ideas.
I stood near the departure gate waving goodbye to Sian, knowing that she is about to face a very harsh winter in Astana thinking about the emotional winter I am about to face without her. I will think of her every day when I have my coffee. I will live for moments that are yet to come, moments when dad and daughter can be together again. As I walked the airport lounge waiting for our flight, God reminded me that Sian belongs to Him. I have the pleasure of having such an awesome daughter, but Sian is God’s possession to use for His glory and His purposes. God shares her with me but she belongs ultimately to Him. I found that incredibly comforting.
But what about Jarrid’s parents? How are they feeling today? The hole in their hearts can not mend by the hope of a future meeting. There are no more sites to see, no more walks to take, no more coffees to enjoy, just the pain of absence that will not wholly subside on this side of eternity. Yes, we have a real and present hope in our risen Savior which means Jarrid and his parents can be reunited. But what about the here and now? How do we cope with this present reality?
Why do some end their lives while others seem willing and able to weather impossible storms? Yes, the similarities between us are noticeable, but the differences are intricate and complex. What makes us who we are and how much of the past impacts the present and the future? Do our genes have the last word about us or is there something transcendent on which we can hinge our moorings that will keep us afloat during the most treacherous storms of life? We may never fully understand some of these issues, proving once again our finiteness. However, just because we are unsure of some things does not mean we can not be certain about others. There are objective truths that, when believed and taken hold of, literally transform your mind, will, and emotions. What are these truths? You have to come this weekend to find out.
Pastor Jeff Vines spent twenty years on the mission field (Zimbabwe, New Zealand) planting churches and training leaders. From 1998-2005 he was the featured speaker on the weekly television broadcast, “Questions of Life,” and frequently debated agnostic and atheist alike on national radio. For two years Jeff served as the Teaching Pastor at Savannah Christian Church in Savannah, GA. On January 1, 2008, Jeff became the Lead Pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley. Jeff is the author of Dinner with SKEPTICS: Defending God in a World that Makes No Sense (2008, 2011) and the newly released Unbroken: 8 Enduring Promises God Will Keep (2012). Jeff and his wife, Robin, celebrated their 30th anniversary in July of 2016 and have two children, Delaney and Sian.