Yesterday, I took my mother to the funeral of her neighbor, Debbie who passed away last week. Debbie had been diagnosed with lupus when she was twenty years old. She was 64 years old. The funeral was a celebration of a life well-lived and her family and friends were rejoicing that she was free from pain and suffering forever, safe in the arms of the One whom she loved so well.
I'd first met Debbie and her husband Clark when they moved into the house down the street from us. My mother was working out-of-state at the time but did not want to sell her home so she rented it to us instead.
At this point in time, Debbie's disease had become crippling. Despite that, we would frequently see them making their way slowly down the street on their daily walk.
We eventually moved but as my mother had moved back to Minnesota, we would still see them on occasion whenever we were in the neighborhood. My mother also began to attend a weekly Bible study which they held in their home so I would occasionally get updates on how Debbie was doing.
In addition to eventually losing the use of her legs, her hands became useless, twisted and deformed. She never, however, lost her smile.
Yesterday at the funeral, Clark talked about how he would get out and shovel the sidewalk for Debbie so she could get out into the world during the long, brutal Minnesota winters. He just didn't stop with his own portion of the sidewalk however. He shoveled the entire side of the block.
Now lest you wonder about his "lazy" neighbors, most if not all of them shoveled their portion of the sidewalk as well. In fact in Minneapolis, you are fined if you do not shovel your walk in a timely manner. The thing is, Clark was often out there before they had a chance to even do it. He wanted to ensure the path was safe for his wife...and he did so cheerfully. He counted it joy to not only serve his wife but to serve his neighbors as well. I know because sometimes he would cross the street and do the sidewalk in front of our house, even though Debbie would not pass that way. Clark and Debbie understood what it meant to love your neighbor as yourself.
As Clark was speaking, I felt the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit. He reminded me of the slippery and even somewhat dangerous path I am on at the moment. Though surrounded by "ice and snow", God was ahead of me, clearing the way so I could safely make my way through.
My eyes filled with tears as I contemplated this truth. All too often, my eyes are focused on the darkness, the bitter cold, the biting wind, the snow and the ice. I become fearful and even immobilized, certain that I cannot possibly make it through. Instead, I must fix my eyes on the One who has promised to go before me. I must place my confidence in Him knowing that He has prepared a path for me. That path may twist and turn, it may run over mountains and through valleys. It may become very narrow and even dark and lonely but I do not travel it alone. God is ahead of me, preparing the way before me and He is preparing it for you as well.