"Some midnight hour if you should find
You're in a prison in your mind...
Reach out and praise, defy those chains
And they will fall in Jesus' name."
Sometimes life isn't as simple and perfect as we would like for it to be. Often the smallest events can ruin our day (and for the moment, we think they will be the gloom of our entire life). So, imagine when you wake up one day and a small event turns into the most life-changing moment of your life thus far. That is where I found myself on September 15, 2009 in the door way of a dear friend's house...
"...[heaven] seems so near, troubles seems so small, when God
brings you through something bigger than yourself..."
I have talked with some about the details- the way God turned strangers into friends, placed me at a specific place at a specific time- surrounding the death of my husband, Wes. However, I left out the emotional and spiritual effects. You see, I believe that death is not finite- there is a heaven where we go on to live. A promised land where there is no more sorrow or pain (Revelation 21:4). As Jesus stated to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" (John 11: 25-26). So, for the most part the emotional effect of his death has been a sweeter longing for heaven- it seems so near, troubles seem so small, when God brings you through something bigger than yourself. If you believe, then you too will experience heaven after death.
I was eating dinner at Justin and Whitney Gallaway's house (the college and career pastor of Parkway Baptist Temple), when Justin handed me his phone saying that I had a call. I stood up from the table, made it to the doorway of the living room when someone on the other line was asking me to come to the police station regarding my husband, Wesley Campbell. I knew in that one sentence that Wes was dead... I collapsed into Whitney's arms saying, "Oh, God!!" but thinking nothing, feeling numb. I had to wait two hours to go to the police station for someone to share with me that Wes had committed suicide. When Justin started the car to make the drive, "I Can Only Imagine" started to play on J103- God's promise to me that Wes was saved and in heaven at that moment. I held on to every word that the Officer said, waiting for a clue when I could inform him, "You have the wrong guy, Wes couldn't be the one you're talking about." When I was told that they had examined Wes' vehicle in the garage of our home, my hopes were lifted! His XTerra couldn't fit in the garage, because of the lights on top! However, he went on to say that he had poisoned himself from the carbon monoxide of the vehicle. His body was found in the back yard of our home by a neighbor. I did not shed a tear through the statements the officer made- I went back to the Gallaway's home without crying. Whitney put a CD player in my bedroom that night, and sweet voices lifted songs of praise to God- praises that I would soon be able to sing for myself. Ashley Guinn shared that night with me and many more to follow (what a God send she was!). I asked her, "Is it okay that I'm not crying..." She told me that I would grieve in my own time.
"What in the world am I going to do now that I'm alone?"
For the next couple of days, I rode around with Whitney, Melissa Hill, Jessica Bramblett, Ashley, and Amber Erwin, finalizing the details of his funeral- printing pictures for the visitation, collecting momentos of his life (football, fishing, and the Marines). My parents and other family members took care of Dallas- he was one and a half, and Wes had been his father for the past year of his life. For the funeral, I was advised to pick one or two songs to be sung. I asked Brandon Taylor to sing Chris Tomlin's new song "Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)"- it was so new he had not heard it, but learned it for the funeral. Jessica suggested that Melissa Sampson sing Selah's song "I Bless Your Name". I couldn't remember her singing it at church before, so she played it for me- I smiled and said "That will be a good song to sing." :) The night before the funeral, after visiting with all the people that loved Wes- that he had made an imprint on their life, I prayed to God, asking him to help me let go. I walked down the aisle of the church, sat down on the pew, grasping my mother's hand, and listened to the Pastors preach on death and remembering Wes. When Melissa Sampson started singing, "Their chains were loosed and they were free.. I bless Your name.. I bless Your name...", Whitney turned to me and said, "Let it go, sister... Give it to God. Leave it here." My guard crashed to the floor, and the tears started pouring... What was I letting go? I was letting go of the hurt (I had planned the rest of my life with this man, how could God take him?), the uncertainty (What in the world am I going to do now that I'm alone?), the embarrassment (What are people going to think of me as a wife?), and the blame (I should have known- this is all my fault). By "letting it go" I did not have all the answers to those questions- I was simply letting God know that I trusted him with my uncertainties.
Today, I still struggle with negative thoughts of Wes' death. One thing that God made clear to me from the beginning was that his suicide was based around sin- we ALL have sin. Satan loves for us to sin- it takes away from God's glory. I have a very deep and understanding view on how sin can encompass your life until your thoughts have gone so far to make you believe that there is no hope but death. But you know what, Satan can't conquer death for God's children!! Satan can not keep you from heaven!! If you're saved, you're washed in the blood- Jesus' blood that he shed when he was nailed to the cross for our sins. Satan can take away from your joy, your purpose in life, if you let him. I have to choose daily, to follow God.
"Your most treasured memory is defining your present day life."
This past Saturday in a Beth Moore video, she asks the question "What is your most treasured memory?" from her Bible study, The Law of Love. She goes on to explain that your most treasured memory is not necessarily the best memory you have, but it is the part of your past that consumes you. For me that long ago memory of Wes' death creeped up into my mind. How many times a day did I still dwell on that part of my life? Had I allowed that event to give God glory? Beth then made a statement so relevant to the anxiety that my life had recently been centered around: "Your most treasured memory is defining your present day life." Wow! September 15, 2009 is no longer the date, but just a memory. Ephesians 1:20 "... which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places." God is in control! I need a new memory...
Justin had previously preached on Joshua 4 "(vs.7) ... the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. (vs.9)... and they are there unto this day." I am choosing to turn my memory into a memorial of what God brought me through- how He supplied my every need through my faith. This memory shall not be moved.