Context is so important to any story. Our favorite stories usually have the happiest of endings and everything turns out just like we want it. It is why we find it hard to showcase our struggles, our hurts and sorrows. But in times of pain we experience moments that teach a different meaning of perfection and offer a far greater perspective.
At our house the words “grow up” are probably used all too often. And it is not always with those words I express my meaning. For example, my children will attest to on any given day I tell them my job as Mom is to teach them to care for themseIves. I may say this as I remind them to make up their bed or clean up their rooms. I might even add “Look! I am not going to college with you.” So “grow up” is implied.
It was Mother’s Day and I thought of her, her children and her Mom. Oh! I miss my friend. I sent words to her Mom and her reply brought tears and a smile-- a picture of us I had never seen. She texted, “those little girls grew up to be beautiful young ladies….”
And there it was… a form of those words again “grow up”. They echoed in my head as the verse that had been nagging me for months came flooding into my mind. I had written it down and studied it.
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” --- Matthew 5:48 The Message [emphasis Peterson]
I studied and analyzed why these words resonated with me now. I looked to other versions. Other translations spoke of perfection and His perfect ways. But it was the words “Grow up” that connected it all for me.
The perfect we strive for is not the perfect this verse speaks of. It is so much more than the appearance of things. Even the “grow up” I work so hard to teach my children is not the real meaning of these verses. It took time and the words of my friend’s mom for it all to click for me.
The turning point in my friend’s story was stage four brain cancer, and her battle with cancer gave me context to understand the meaning of perfect written here in this verse. We did grow up together, and never once in those years together did we ever consider cancer being a part of either of our lives. We physically matured and learned to care for ourselves and our own families as our parents taught us to do, but when faced with the disease that would take her life here on earth it was her spiritual growth and complete faith that shined through. She lived like the kingdom subject that God created her to be. She lived generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives towards us all.
When I learned that her condition had taken a sudden turn I reached out to her via text. In the midst of words about rest and tiredness, she repeatedly texted, “Love you, love you, would love to see you, love you.” Those were her final words to me.
In living with brain cancer for the past five years her eyes remained fixed on Jesus. Because she chose to stay focused on Him her faith never wavered and only grew stronger. Many times she peacefully talked to me about the days that were ahead of her. And yet she gave her last days to those around her. Telling them about Jesus and teaching them to be the people God calls them to be.
It is no coincidence that this verse spoke to me when it did. In mourning the passing of my dear friend these words found me and stuck with me even though there is no understanding her being gone. She taught me so many things. Because of her life I know the value of friendship and she loved me flaws and all. My children watch me tearfully miss her. They listen respectively as I tell the same stories over and over of our childhood together. They now know what the deep love for a friend looks like.
I want them to know that growing up is not just about getting taller and gaining a greater independence. And it is not always the "perfect" moments that will bring the most important growth. In the future while I am teaching them to care for themselves I will also remind them that they are kingdom subjects and they are to live like it! My sweet, precious friend sure did!
In loving memory of my lifelong friend
Michelle Haddock Myrick May 31, 1975-February 6, 2016
And in honor of her beautiful children she loved.