Do we have any idea the value of a life? To Judas, Jesus was worth thirty pieces of silver. Joseph was worth twenty pieces to his brothers. Today, however, I am not discussing the value of Jesus or Joseph, who we know both to be priceless. I want to get more personal, closer to home, if you please.
Frankly, I wonder if we really know the value lives? I am certain that a few know what they are, and I am sure they would die for some of them; but so many know nothing of true values, and they won’t know until those things which are of real worth are touched or taken away. It is then that they will walk through the dark valley of the shadow of death, the valley of fires, and this valley awaits us all. If our values are not golden, of high value, of great worth, they will burn to ashes in those awesome flames of that vast valley while those of gold will be greatly refined.
It is written in The Royal Path of
Life by T.L. Haines, A.M. and L.W. Yaggy, M.S., 1876: “We stand on the borders
of a wide gulf which is swallowing up all things human. Death appears to have no
boundaries. We see in the midst of this universal wreck, nothing stable, nothing
abiding, nothing immortal, upon which this poor, frail, dying man can fasten.
Ask the hero, ask the statesman, ask the nobleman whose wisdom we have been
accustomed to revere, and he will tell us from his deathbed, and his illumined
spirit still whispers with well-known eloquence this solemn admonition: ‘Ye
mortals hastening to your tomb, and once the companions of my own pilgrimage,
take warning and avoid my errors; cultivate the virtues I have recommended;
choose the Saviour I have chosen; live disinterestedly of temporal things. Live
for Life, and not for that which gives momentary pleasures -- those things that
slip from all dying fingers as quickly and assuredly as the beauty fades from
the lilies of every valley. Live for immortality; and would you rescue anything
from final dissolution and decay, lay it up to God.’
“In a moment's time, Jesus, the anchor of Life, the dispatcher of all pleasure, and the sum total of reality, swallows the agony of toil, bringing peace to the weary soul. Sleeping in Christ is the end of all travail and futile passions, the stepping-stone and door to everlasting desires, the gate of gladness, the port of paradise, the haven of heaven, the entrance to serenity, and the continued progression of all blissfulness. Jesus is the very bed of feathery down wherein the doleful souls of God's elect rest. In Him they rise from corruption and awake fresh and most hearty to everlasting life.
“A man's dying day will be his day of increase, when he shall be freed from the prison in which he has long been detained and brought home to his Father's house. His dying day will be his resting day, when he shall rest from all care and trouble; his reaping day, when he shall reap the fruit he has sown with tears, in faith, hope, and love; his conquering day, when he shall triumph over every enemy; his transplanting day, from the earthy to the heavenly, from a toilsome wilderness to a heavenly paradise; his robing day, to put off the worn-out garments of flesh, and put on the new and glorious vesture of light; his marriage day; his coronation day; the day of his glory, continuing in his eternal, perfect bliss with Christ.
“One of Martin Luther's children lay on her death bed; the great man of the Protestant reformation approached and said to her: ‘My little daughter, my beloved Margaret, you would willingly remain with your earthly parents, but if God calls you, you will go with your heavenly Father.’ ‘Yes, dear father, it is as God pleases.’ He then said: My daughter, enter thou into thy resting place in peace.’ She turned her eyes toward him and said, with touching simplicity, ‘Yes father.’ How yielding the believing Luther parted with his dying child; and I believe the sentiment of his heart was very like the inscription on a child's tombstone in an English churchyard, as follows: ‘Who plucked that flower?’ cried the gardener, as he walked through the garden. His fellow servant answered, ‘The Master.’ And the gardener held his peace.” — End quote.
As most of you know, we lost our 19 year old grandson, Christopher Michael Restaino, March 19, 2005. His gentle motion, his kisses, and warm hugs are no more, and tears continue to flood our souls. Death has spread its arms about him. It has woven a dark shroud, becoming the winding-sheet and the sole vesture of his earthen body. His laughter and kind voice are vivid memories in our minds, while they fade like distant echoes of another time. Nevertheless — he still lives! Praise God — he lives! And even in the horrid face of his death, we know that with him all is well! All is well!
When our Father said to come home, he yielded to His call. He was released into the arms of love. Through the portals of natural death he passed into the abode of a more real eternal Life.
While he was with us, his life was a song — such a sweet melody to our ears. But now he is gone and his music has ceased. His body of dust is gone. Oh, but praise God, he is more than dust! He is an everlasting son of God, clothed upon with a heavenly house that abides forever. Our Christopher ran a good race, bringing joy and love to many — he finished his course — and now he rests with gladness in the bosom of his God and Lord Jesus Christ.
He was such a wonderful son, kind brother, loving grandson, and faithful friend, and that fragrance lingers slightly as the sweet blossoms of spring. We are saddened beyond measure by this great loss, however, we know he is well and free from the bondage of pain, and suffering. We know also that we shall see him again! Nevertheless — Christopher, our love, is missed so very much, and it is sad that his true worth could not be fully known until he was taken from us.
There was never a time when he was not loved and valued very highly; but it was not until he was gone that we were impacted so greatly. We now know just how valuable and truly precious this one little boy was to us and the world. And he must have been just as valued by our Lord; for He came as a thief in the night and stole him away.
Now that our grandson is gone, we know his value. It is a value that cannot be measured. It is limitless, timeless, boundless. It reaches into eternity and grips our hearts in both love and despair. On one hand our hearts are enraged with anger, and we roar with the heated passion of the lion. On the other hand our hearts of the lamb’s humble compassion ache with insufferable pain. On one hand we want to strike out at everything and everyone who could have remotely contributed to Christopher’s death. We would even rend and tear our own selves for not doing more to have helped, encouraged, and saved his life. The lion in each of us has raised up ferociously in the twilight of this dark night; but the lamb has been there as well. Both the passion of the lion and the compassion of the lamb have been companions, and this bond is causing them to lay down together. With such a union we can know that all is well, indeed, all is well!
Despair has certainly swept over our entire family, and grief comes like tidal waves at times. The disciples of Jesus must have felt something similar to this after Jesus was taken from the Garden of Gethsemane. They slept during the most agonizing time of their Lord’s life. After realizing how they had failed, they, no doubt, fell into despair. The sense of having done something wrong that cannot be changed can easily lead to despair. We may feel that it is all over, forever ruined, so what is the use of even trying. Despair such as this is common. Whenever we realize we have not taken advantage of golden opportunities of great value, despair can be the end result. But let it be as it was when Jesus went to the twelve, the third time, and told them to “Sleep on now and take your rest.” In the same breath, however, He went on to say, “Rise, let us be going” (Matt. 26:43-46).
In essence, He must have been saying, “That priceless opportunity is gone, and there is nothing you can do to change it. You can’t go back in time and do it differently. You can, however, get up and get started on what lies ahead.” Therefore, let the past sleep. Don’t keep it awake by dwelling on your regrets. Let it sleep while you go forward into the rich future with Christ Jesus.
There will be experiences like this in each of our lives. We will have times of despair caused by real uncontrollable events in our lives, such as the loss of those we love so dearly. In the heavy darkness of the losses like this, we will not be able to lift ourselves out from them; for they are overwhelming, and there is nothing in our power to match their heavy weight.
When we feel that we have done the unthinkable whether it was intentional, accidental, negligence, or due to human error — we cannot see how it is possible to forgive ourselves. But let it be as it was with the disciples when they slept during their Lord’s darkest hour when He knelt dying and sweating great drops of blood. He did not condemn them for their negligence; but rather, in the face of their guilt, He simply told them to get up and get going. Let the past sleep; but get up and live. Don’t give place to past failures; for doing so will sabotage your fruitful future.
During our grandson’s darkest hour, when he lay in bed at home dying (in a similitude, sweating great drops of blood), we were all like the disciples that night in the garden. We were asleep to what he was going through. Margit and I were going about our daily business, his father and brother were on a plane to the Bahamas for sailing trip with some other Boy Scouts, and his mother was at work. None of us sensed that Christopher was having a seizure and in dire need of help. Even our daughter, Michelle, who said she should have recognized the signs that he may have been having trouble with his blood sugar level, was asleep to those signs. Frankly, the angels of the Lord had put us all to sleep, blinded our eyes, dulled our senses to what was developing in our darling boy as he was being prepared for his departure. Christopher’s death was unavoidable, yet in our humanity we all shoulder guilt and regret to one degree or another.
This weight has been tremendous, and Michelle seems to have taken the heaviest part of it. Until this past weekend, we were not sure she would ever again feel the joy of life; but a retreat she attended was the beginning of a healing to her broken heart. It helped her to awaken out of that nightmarish sleep; for during those three days she heard in her spirit the voice of the Lord, saying, “Rise, let us be going! Let the past sleep while we go forward together into the rich future awaiting us.” Prior to this, the treasure of joy was so marred, so far removed, and so hard to imagine as ever being hers again began to return. God in His infinite grace touched the deep wound, and we rejoice that the joy of life is now dawning in the midst of such a dark night.
Those of you who receive letters or emails from us may have noticed that it is common for us to sign them with, “Be blessed today and always in the joy of life.” This was burned deep into my heart when our dear friend, Chuck Weller, called just a little while before death claimed his body. He wanted to let us know that he was dying from a brain tumor, and he did not have much time left. The simple joy of everyday life had left him, and I realized just how precious life really was. I saw that it was such a joy to live without pain, to breathe fresh air, to have a cool breeze to brush your cheek, to walk hand in hand with your wife through a field of spring flowers, to hold your children and grandchildren, to watch them laugh and sing and play and grow. What a true joy life is!
And now that Christopher is gone, it has been reinforced beyond measure. Truly, my dear friends, I pray that you all will be blessed today and always in the joy of life. And I encourage you to do everything in your power to make it so. The joy of life is of high value! It is too valuable to waste. It is beyond measure. Take advantage of every minute of every day. We should never take for granted one breath of fresh air, one ounce of cool water, a tasty meal, a moment of laughter, and we should certainly not take for granted our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, our brothers, our husbands, our wives, our sons, our daughters, our grandsons, our granddaughters, other family members, or our friends. They are all of high value and beyond compare. Who can measure that which came out of God and has been knit so tightly with us? What price could be placed on such priceless treasures?
Let me ask — where is our tolerance toward those we love, and even toward those we don’t love, but God loves? Are we to set ourselves up as gods before our children and the world and expect them to bow down to our image and give us homage? Why is it, fathers and mothers, that you will not tolerate your growing, learning children when they have not grown to have the same values as you embrace? Can they be mature thirty or forty year-old men and women while they are yet children? While there is yet time, take note of their value and let them live as you guide them with love through their young lives. Bless them with the joy of life. Hold them close to you, touch them often, hug them, kiss them, play with them, teach them, nurture them, cherish every moment as a fervent branding iron of love that it may burn deep into your hearts. Spend as much time with them as is humanly possible before they are gone and all you have left are vague memories and a world full of regrets. And I speak especially to those who are ministers to the body of Christ and the world.
Jesus said he who will not hate his mother and father for His sake is not worthy to be His disciple. He also said, “Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Matt. 19:28-29
Yes, Jesus said that to the twelve. He has not said that to me, and probably not to you either. Moreover, I believe that if you don’t love your mother and father and your children you can’t love the world. And if you don’t love the world, you are not worthy to be His disciple and have no place in the Kingdom of God. Do you think I am circumventing and speaking contrary to what our Lord said? So be it! Think what you will; but that’s the way I see it! If this disqualifies me from being a minister of Christ, then let me be disqualified; for I can only call it the way I see it. I know what beats true in my heart, and if you are not too insanely religious, it will also beat true in your hearts.
The fact is, a minister, or anyone else, who forsakes his family is worse than an infidel. Paul said that, didn’t he? To be reminded, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8). And let us know that there is more to providing for one’s own than putting food on the table and equipping every room of the house with wide-screen TVs and play stations.
Many ministers set out to serve God with such zeal that they grossly neglect their own families. I know something about this by experience. Although that part of my life is largely behind me, it can still plague me at times. For instance, I may work twelve to sixteen hours a day, sometimes more, answering mail, email, and writing The Pathfinder studies, and although my office is in our home, with me being absorbed in work, Margit is alone during these times. In essence, I suppose you could say that during those times I am loving all of you more than my wife. I am certainly giving you my time rather than her, so it would seem to be so. My, oh my! What are our values, and where do we have our hearts set?
One regrettable example that brought me to the realization that our values have been grossly misaligned happened a month and a half before the death of Christopher. It still seems so strange, so foreign, so unreal to say that. Saying or thinking about Christopher being dead makes me want to scream, and sometimes I do. Nevertheless, after Christopher slipped from this life to the other side, we are all having many regrets. One thing stands out so clear today that I regret having passed up the priceless opportunity of being with him one last time. We received a call from Michelle and were asked if we could drive up to Albuquerque and spend the weekend with the boys, since she was flying out to be with Sergio in Monterey, California where he was doing some research. We told her that it would not be possible, because we had plans of being in a ministerial conference where I was one of the guest speakers. The meetings were good; but I don’t think I added to it.
Nevertheless, due to what others expected of us, unknowingly we turned down the final opportunity to be with our Christopher and Alex together as brothers. We would never see him alive again, and we deeply regret this; yet I know we must let our regrets forever sleep as we get up and continue on to that which lies ahead. We cannot set our minds upon such a tormenting avenue; for it has no purpose, no worthwhile meaning. We can grieve, but let us not do penance. Our Lord is not punishing us, and neither should we.
We have received hundreds of sympathy cards and emails, and we have been so encouraged and lifted by each of them. They have truly been an undergirding, and we thank all of you so very much. You are dear sojourners in Christ, and your words found their way into a deep place within and have comforted us more than you may realize. It is wonderful to have such love and support from all over the world, not only from those we know personally, but from those we have never met or had contact with. Truly, we are companions in tribulation as we flow together in the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Again, thank you for touching our hearts and ministering to us at a time like this.
Margit just now returned from the post office with the mail, and the following card from Sandra Dossey was among them that I would like to share:
“Dear Brother and Sister,
“My heart is so full of sorrow for you — as I read of your great loss — my husband and I are raising a grandson who will be 11 in May, and I cannot imagine what you are feeling. May I share with you from a favorite book of mine, Gold By Moonlight by Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), a missionary to India:
“God knows and you know, that there was always a hope in your heart that a certain way would not be yours. ‘Anything but that Lord,’ had been your earnest prayer. And quite suddenly, you found your feet set on that way and no other. Do you still hold fast to your faith that He maketh your way perfect? It does not look perfect. It looks like a road that has lost its sense of direction; a broken road, a wandering road, a strange mistake. And yet either it is perfect, or all that you have believed crumbles like a rope of sand. There is no middle choice between faith and despair.’”
This, indeed, looks like a road that has lost its sense of direction, a broken road, a wandering road, a strange mistake. There seems to be no perfection in it at all; but if it is not perfect all that we have believed crumbles like a rope of sand. Truly, there is no middle choice between faith and despair, and today, despair is not our choice.
Another wrote with these touching words:
Dear Elwin and Margit,
“I received my copy of The Pathfinder the other day, but I did not have the opportunity to read it until this morning. When I opened the front and read the following words, ‘Death of Our Grandson,’ I felt a ‘gut wrenching pain’ deep within my being. As I continued to read, my heart was very grieved and I believe that at the time, I experienced somewhat of a portion of the ‘pain’ that you and your wife must have had and continue to have over the loss of one so loved and close to your hearts. My wife and I too, are grandparents of two boys, (ages 6 & 8) and I simply cannot begin to imagine the tragic loss you feel in your hearts from the passing of Christopher from this realm of living into our Father's presence.
“Upon coming home from work this afternoon (I work in the Public Safety Dept. at CBN), I knew that I must write and offer you our heartfelt love and condolences. I went on the internet to your website (http://www.godfire.net/christopher.html) and began to first view all the pictures, and then I read the obituary and all the eulogies. Tears filled my eyes and I found myself sobbing and literally grieving and in much agony as I read the eulogies, one by one. How they touched my heart and emotions!
“Although we have never met, I feel that I know you in that I had ordered some of the video tapes from one of your meetings in Alamogordo. J. Preston Eby, Stacy Wood, Charlie Rhyne, Gary Amirault, and Bob Torango were some of the brothers who ministered, along with a number of others. If I recall correctly, you lovingly spoke or referred to Christopher on one of the tapes.
“Even as I bring this brief letter to a close, I am still fighting back the tears and wish I was there to personally embrace both you and your wife, Margit, and to minister our Father's abounding and unconditional love to you both. You are both such a blessing to me and to many members of the Body of Christ and you are loved..........ABUNDANTLY!!
“Love and blessings,
Such wonderful, heart-warming words from so many have made a great difference in this road that appears so grave. They are spoken from those whose values are set in the right order. They are words of pure gold. They have true value.
This great loss has caused me to examine our values, especially my own, and there is still a terrible cry from deep within my spirit, questioning — WHAT ARE OUR VALUES? My God! WHAT ARE OUR VALUES?” It is sad that they have been misaligned, and our busy lives have pushed aside those things which are of true value; namely, our children, grandchildren, husbands, wives, family, and dear friends. I pray that this same question that continues to echo in my spirit marks the beginning of the end of all things which are of little or no value in my life and yours.
In closing, let me say that I am
presently in a place I've never been. I am, as it were, in a stalemate, an
impasse. There is a shift in my life taking place, and until the word and
direction of the Lord begins to take form, I don't feel free to write or publish
anything. If what I say is not the very substance of God, I don't want to speak.
I will be silent. We do not want to send something out simply because another
month has rolled around, and it is the expected thing to do. I know you
understand. However, if there is the release of life, you will hear from us
soon, which I pray will be the case. Now...
Elwin & Margit Roach
PO Box 4004
Alamogordo, NM 88311-4004
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