Sunday, December 26, 2010

Micah in Heaven

When Micah died, I had difficulty with how Micah would be welcomed into Heaven. I’ve always pictured the entrance into Heaven as a joyous event. Joyous, that is, for the deceased believer and Heaven’s other members . But Micah was of the age where he particularly appreciated the familiar faces of mom, dad and grandpas and grandmas. Who did he know in Heaven that would welcome him? Would he be startled by all of the unfamiliar faces? Micah had lived on earth for such a short period of time that there was no one he knew on earth that had preceded him into Heaven.
But, surely, since Jesus is mighty to save Micah, could not also He see to it that loving and beautiful faces also welcome him into eternity? I imagine that there are many smiling saints who enjoy the opportunity to welcome a little child who Jesus saved before adulthood.

About a month after Micah died, my cousin Chris created the illustration I have included above. The illustration depicts Micah being lead by a little bird into a boat, where Micah then travels across a large body of water. The scene on the bottom depicts Micah being welcome by my grandparents, Delbert and Irene Wessman, who preceded us into glory.
Micah’s “ship” illustration reminds of this illustration about Heaven, which is attributed to Henry Van Dyke, an American preacher from the 1800’s:

“I’m standing on the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She’s an object of beauty and strength and I stand watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come down to mingle with each other. And then I hear someone at my side saying, “There, she’s gone.”
Gone where? Gone from my sight, this is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There, she is gone” there are other eyes watching her coming, and there are other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!” Cited by Randy Alcorn, In Light of Eternity, p. 152.
As agonizing as it is to be separated from Micah this Christmas season, how joyous it must have been for Heaven’s citizens, last summer, to welcome Micah to glory. The most enjoyable Christmas celebrations here on earth have nothing on the joy experienced in Heaven. Someday, I will similarly enter the Kingdom, by the blood of Jesus, to the shouts of joy of many dearly loved family members, including my son, Micah Robert Wessman.

Friday, December 17, 2010

True Glory

I recently watched a television show called “Who do you think you are?” Apparently the show follows public figures as historians trace their family lineage through previous generations. The particular episode that I watched summarized the personal history of actor Matthew Broderick and two of his ancestors: a grandfather who fought through, and survived, World War I; and his great, great grandfather, Robert Martindale, who fought and died in the Civil War.

After surviving the Battle of Gettysburg, Robert Martindale was killed in a subsequent battle. Martindale’s body is buried in a grave marked not by his name, but by a number—number 2469. Martindale’s relative anonymity as a Civil War casualty is particularly striking given Broderick’s acting role as Colonel Robert Gould Shaw in the award-winning movie, “Glory.” In that film, Broderick plays Shaw, the son of a wealthy abolitionist family, who volunteers to lead the very first formal units in the federal army comprised of African-Americans. While certain aspects of the film are fictional, most of the film is based upon the true story of Shaw and his regiment. At the end of the movie, Shaw leads his unit into certain death against a well-entrenched Confederate fort. Approximately one-half of Shaw’s entire unit died (including Shaw himself) or was injured or captured. The selflessness, leadership, and tenacity exhibited by Broderick’s character in that movie were certainly worthy of human award, of human notice, of human “glory.”

In light of the award-winning movie, Shaw’s leadership and selflessness have received human attention (“glory”). But while Shaw’s actions have received significant attention, what about Martindale’s sacrifice? What was Martindale’s reward for fighting and dying for his country? To be given grave stone #2469? Until the making of this television show, it appears that no one knew where Martindale was even buried.

Micah’s earthly body is currently buried in a row of graves of children in a large cemetery in Minneapolis. Not far from this row of children’s graves are some of the oldest graves in the cemetery. On these graves sit huge grave markers erected in honor of the deceased. In death so as in life, it seemed that these ostentations markers are not only a display of wealth but of the competition that likely existed between the prominent families of the day. In comparison to these ostentatious markers is the simple marker for Micah Robert Wessman. Micah’s life was so short that he had no opportunity to “distinguish himself,” from a human perspective. His earthly life was not long enough to be worthy of human recognition or human “glory.”

In speaking with other parents who have lost children, I find that like other grieving parents, I want to keep our child’s memory alive, to honor and remember how God blessed us through our little guy. Particularly around the Christmas season, it is very difficult to be missing your 2-year old son. But as it relates to what is eternally glories, what is worthy of our affection and attention, Micah is not “missing out” on any notoriety, any glory, from having lived a full life. Robert Martindale has a nice human legacy because he made the sacrifice of his life. But the legacies of the greatest political leaders, the greatest soldiers, and the greatest athletes of all time are like drops in an ocean compared to the greatness of God’s own legacy.

King David notes, “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” Psalm 103:15. Similarly, the Apostle Peter, citing the prophet Isaiah, contrasts the brevity of human life with the eternal application of the Word of God. “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever.” 1 Peter 1:24.

In the end, we should be grateful that God’s glory will infinitely outshine any human glory. In comparison to the glory due to God, the greatest human beings who have ever lived will receive about the same glory as my son Micah. While Americans might feel that certain individuals, such as Robert Martindale, should receive greater recognition, and while parents feel like their deceased children should not be forgotten, we will someday all agree, whether we currently agree or not, that the attributes and activities of God are of infinitely greater worth than any and all human achievements. Our eternity will be defined by God’s glory, not our own.

· “Your name endures forever, your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages. “ Psalm 135:13.
· “But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations.” Lamentations 5:19.
· “All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth, and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord.” Psalm 138: 4-5.
· “I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. “ Ecclesiastes 3:14.
· “But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; You are remembered throughout all generations….Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD: That he looked down from his holy height; from heaven the Lord look at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die, that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise, when people gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.” Psalm 102: 12, 18-22.
· “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” Romans 14:11; Isaiah 45:23.

From an eternal perspective, I believe Micah did not “miss out” on any opportunities to “make a name for himself.” Any attempts to do so would have detracted from his ability to find true joy, found in Jesus Christ alone. In fact, Micah already has a great head start on where all of us are headed--to be more and more consciously aware of the superior worth, praiseworthiness and glory of God over anything in creation. I pray that even now, while “waiting” on earth, we might become more God-centered in our affections.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Micah's Toys

Even though Micah's room is now occupied by his little brother, Owen, his room hasn't changed much since he died. His bedroom still has his little toys, his children's books, and his stuffed animals. When I see some of his toys, I am reminded of this old poem, called "Little Boy Blue:"

"The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and staunch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket molds in his hands.

Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the toy soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.

"Now don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
He dreamt of the pretty toys;

And, as he was dreaming, and angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue--
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true

Aye, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place--
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;

And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of Little Boy Blue,
Who kissed them and put them there."

Eugene Field, Lullaby-Land, Poems of Childhood, 1904.

Our second son, Owen, is now old enough to enjoy playing with his big brother's toys. It is with bittersweet joy that we can give Micah's toys to Owen for him to throw around, chew on, drool upon. Given Micah's short life with us, we feel blessed every day when we can wake up, and play with our Owen, whom the Lord has mercifully given to us for yet another day. Micah's toys are a daily reminder of God's blessing to us of Owen.

But Micah's toys are also a nearly daily reminder of the life with us that Micah "left behind" and the pain of our loss. Micah always had a little toy doll in his hands, and was often chewing on the head of that little doll. When I showed him one of his little teddy bears, he nearly always gave us an ear-to-ear smile while giving that teddy bear a gut-busting bear hug. Oh, how we long to see our Micah again; to see that big grin, with just those two teeth, to hear him talk again, to see him big that big bear hug.

We hold on to the promise in Scripture that Jesus will, in the end, redeem all things. In Revelation 21:5, Jesus promises us that he is "making all things new." What, then, will become of our relationship with our son Micah, if God is making all things new? What are you doing, Lord, in and through the sorrow of our loss? What will you be doing over perhaps many more years of an earthly life, while our pictures warp and fade, Micah's toys rust, relationships change, children move away and marry, and our memories and minds fade away?

Again and again in scripture, we see God using pain, sin and death for His own purposes. After God used Joseph to save his family, Joseph told his brothers who had, many years earlier, sold him into slavery, "What you intended for evil, God intends for good." Genesis 50:20. So how will Jesus redeem this suffering? Will Jesus make things just like they were before the pea clogged his throat? Or will we, in Heaven, be able to see Micah even more clearly, hold him more closely, and love him even more him more deeply then we ever did while on earth? When will you be done, Lord? How much longer do we have to wait? And when can we see our son again?