Saturday, October 27, 2007

Life's bad timing

Here is my second nominee to the "Finishing Well Hall of Fame." Although they haven't yet finished the race, this couple has finished an amazing trial of life in a way that pleases God. It's my honor to introduce you to Bruce and Camille, my second Hall of Fame nominee.

Not every decision we make is intentional or invited. Many times we are forced to make decisions that we would never have thought about making. We find that life has forced us into a place where we must make choices at a time when choices are the hardest to make.

Bruce and Camille were in that situation. Without notice, their daughter Ellen got sick at school one afternoon, and before the day had passed, so had Ellen. She was only 8 years old. Bruce and Camille started the day sending their three children off to school like every other day and ended it in a hospital with the death of their daughter.

How do you prepare for these times? Many of the major events in our lives arrive as unwelcome and unexpected visitors. Then, in the midst of these events we must make decisions. Often they are decisions that will determine the future course of our lives. Just as a sailboat is affected by the wind and must make course changes based on the desired destination, so must we when the storm and the winds come against us. Unfortunately, most people simply give way to the wind - they give up and let the wind do its worse. They deal with where they are when the wind subsides, but most of the time are not able to continue on course because they have lost their direction.

This day in the lives of Bruce and Camille brought a storm they never anticipated. They could “give way to the wind” or make a decision to set their sails and hold on. As a couple they made a number of decisions in that crisis, but the shock and numbness of the day and the events that had come into their lives brought them to decisions they had prepared for many years in advance.

Storms always come. Most people don’t expect them and are shocked when real trouble comes into their lives. That didn’t happen to Bruce and Camille. Yes, this was a shock. Yes, they grieved. Yes, it broke their hearts. But something else was going on in their lives too.

Bruce and Camille made decisions in the calm knowing that storms would come. They prepared for “that day”. It is clear that they had no idea what the day would look like, but they made certain decisions about their lives which made the choices of "that day" possible.

What did they decide? I asked Camille that question two years after Ellen died. She thought for a minute, and then with tears in her eyes, she said, “We decided to be thankful anyway.” That was an ultimate decision of trust in God when all that is in you wants to scream to the heavens, “WHY?”

In that time she and Bruce decided to trust God. But it didn’t happen then. For them, the decision to trust God was made years earlier. This storm just set their resolve. When the storm comes, how do you best demonstrate trust? Be thankful to the God who is sovereign over our lives! Be thankful to the God who knew this storm was coming in our lives! Be thankful to the God who loves us!

The Bible says to consider it all joy when you suffer because God allows life to happen for our ultimate good. To believe this and live according to it takes faith. The choices we make to do this are always made earlier, and are cemented into our lives during the storm.

Here is a problem we all face- decisions made in crisis, trial, pain, testing or disaster are often the wrong decisions. They are made in anger, pain, bitterness, confusion and sorrow. They are decisions that will prove to be temporary and inadequate.

How do we make decisions that will allow us to weather the storms ahead of us?
Here is part of their story in their own words to tell you their thoughts (the entire story is available upon request.)

"I guess there are countless decisions Bruce and I have made over the years to seek God. One of the most deliberate was praying for the church God wanted us to be involved in. We searched a long time for Crossroads Bible Church and of course, we can’t begin to relate how much the church body of Crossroads has ministered to us since Ellen died, as well as throughout the years before. We’ve been attending various Bible studies, including BSF courses, and I think that made the biggest difference in my walk with God - not one specific study but the extensiveness of it. There were many times after Ellen died that I clung to those facts. When your emotions are screaming, doubts of who God is can come. But I’d tell myself that everything I was taught of God was true - not just someone’s opinion or my wishful thinking - but that God’s Word is always true The statement that “we don’t need to know all the answers when storms happen but that we need to know God” is exactly what I’ve seen. When you know that God is Sovereign over all but is also loving to all, you can give everything (pain in all forms and joy in all forms) to Him. The key is knowing both - His sovereignty and His love. That knowledge doesn’t come overnight. That knowledge sinks in slowly with each small and sometimes big experience in life. We knew that we also had the choice to be thankful for what Bruce and I had been given (eight wonderful years) or bitter and angry that God hadn’t given us more. What arrogance to think God owes me! It didn’t take away the pain, but I knew God still loved me and would somehow get us through this. It is true about how the previous decisions we make effect the decisions that must be made in a crisis. It is so true. When Ellen died in that emergency room, there were few conscious decisions - mostly reactions...." --Camille

A story like this sobers us. In Bruce and Camille’s story you can hear their hearts and see what choices they made before, during and after their terrible storm.

Today, several years after Ellen's death, Bruce and Camille continue to walk with God and serve him. So, Bruce & Camille, welcome to the hall of fame.


Schweers' Mom said...

I agree with their being hall of famers. I greatly admire this family.

Thanks for sharing the story.

cookiehawk77 said...

Excellent choice, Mike! As you probably know, there are other such stories in their life, all of which could have led to bitterness and frustration. What we see every day is joy and thanksgiving -- and a giving and serving spirit in both of them! Thanks for sharing their story!

Robyn Rochelle E. said...

Oh My!!!!
Thank you for sharing and honoring two of the most amazing people I have ever known. May God bless them in their faithfulness. I love them so. And Camille -- if you read this - I wish I could give you a hug.

Heidi Day said...

I watch this family closely and love them very much. They are incredibly special people. I appreciate being able to be a music-maker alongside Bruce once in awhile, and to share a sweet conversation with Camille when I see her. Camille, if you're reading, I appreciate the memory of when you sat down in Colorado on our patio at family camp, and passed some time talking with me. You are both such an example of joy.

Anonymous said...

One day my family saw Bruce at Subway picking up a sandwich. We said brief "hellos" and we walked out the door. My kids asked how I knew Bruce. I mentioned they had been in his place of business and probably didn't realize it. I mentioned he went to our church. And lastly, I mentioned he was the daddy of the little girl that died a few years back from our church. My daughter (who is 9) said "he doesn't seem sad." I told her he was sad and missed his daughter, but that he loves God so much that he knew God was in control and only wanted the best for them. That he knew his daughter loves Jesus and he would see her again and I'm sure that brought him comfort. I also mentioned that he knew his daughter would not want him to go through life sad, but would want him to be happy and to have fun until they met again.

Years later, Bruce and Camille continue to show what it looks like to walk in the faith. I admire them both so much! Thanks for honoring them for the way they honor Christ.