The shop was unusually quiet. But, what began as a quiet day rapidly deteriorated into a nightmare of gigantic proportions.
My wife and I run a lovely little shop where we sell china and dishware for the home. We are getting up in age and have thought about retirement, but we so enjoy the people who come through our doors that it has not been an easy decision.
All of that changed today.
Rena and I were getting ready to open in the morning. We were admiring the new sets of Christmas plates that had been put on display, There were beautiful and unusual figurines of angels that matched the sets of dishes, and Rena had carefully and beautifully arranged them with the dishes. The Christmas colored cloth they sat on enhanced their beauty. Rena and I loved Christmas because the family would all gather at our home, it was a little bit of Heaven on earth.
Our granddaughter Emily was home from college and was helping us in the store; we were delighted to have her with us.
Emily was the middle child of three that our son John and his wife Carina had blessed our family with. She was to graduate the following summer, and was following her heart into the medical field. She hoped to be a pediatrician. Her love for children abounded and they followed her like the Pied Piper.
We opened promptly at 10:00. As I said, it was unusually quiet; we even commented on it. In retrospect, it was eerily quiet, almost like holding your breath because you knew something was not normal.
Around 11:00 we got a phone call. The caller asked if it was possible to see a sample of the new china that we had received for the holiday. Normally, we did not do that, but as the caller was known to us, we condescended to send Emily over with a piece from each set. She asked if she could meet one of her friends for lunch, saying she would be back by 1:00.
It was around 1:30 when the world came crashing down upon us. Emily’s body was found in an alley by the driver of the local disposal company. She had been gang-raped and left to bleed to death.
This morning I woke up with a dream. A dream about dishes. Think with me about dishes for just a moment. There are many uses. We use dishes to eat our food on, this would certainly be the most common use. But, there are also dishes that are strictly decorative.
I have several depression glass dishes in yellow. They give me much pleasure. I think of the Sun and, I think of the Son, when I look at them. My cabinet has a light in it and when it is on the dishes sparkle and shine.
Some dishes are functional, used for every day, some dishes we use only when we have company over and others bring delight to the eye because of their beauty.
In the Bible Paul talks about dishes that are used for every day and those that are just for company use. This is to show us that not everyone is the same, there are giftings and there are callings that set us apart, like the china in my story above.
King David said, I have been young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread. Sometimes we want to cry out, “Why did you allow this to happen God, I don’t understand! It looks like you abandoned me.” I remind us that God does not lie. Whatever He said is Truth, because Jesus told His disciples, “I am the way, the life and the truth.”.
People are like dishes. Some have a great capacity, the hold a lot and can feed a lot of people. Other dishes are delicate, pretty and a delight to be around. In my dream I saw some pink dishes that were made for every day use, like Emily in my story. She wanted to be a doctor and to serve children. But, I saw that the dishes had been thrown down and were chipped and broken.
I thought about those who perpetrate their hate upon women in the way that Emily was murdered. There are some that rape and kill in the name of their god. Can we not contrast the one true God who declares that He is love with this god who kills, steals and destroys? Who then is the real God? Who would you want to serve?
The Bible tells us that the children of God are to love as He loves and in so doing we will be children of our Heavenly Father. Love does no harm to another. Love is patient and kind, it is not envious or jealous, it is not selfish of self-seeking, it is not touchy, fretful, or resentful, it believes the best of everyone, it’s hope never fails. Paul finishes his letter to the Corinthians regarding love by saying that love never fails.
Can we love like that? Can you? No, not on our own, not in our humanity. But, with and through the Holy Spirit indwelling us, yes, we can.
Our family was devastated, as you can imagine, by what had been done to Emily. She was so bright, so beautiful, so loving. She had a wonderful future. Her desire was to finish med school and set up her practice in our small town where she could serve the community that she loved so much. She looked forward to the time when she would marry and have children of her own.
We were angry, we grieved; the wound to our collective soul seemed too hard to bear. We doubted, we were filled with unbelief, disbelief….so many questions. “God, where were you, why didn’t you stop this? You said you are Love, this makes no sense. Help!”
It seemed that this nightmare had no end. The investigation moved forward and then the trial. As the story unfolded, an eyewitness, someone who lived in an apartment above one of the buildings saw what was happening and called the police. Unfortunately, they did not arrive in time. It came out in court that a group of young men were sitting around outside an ethnic grocery store near where Emily had parked her car. She just happened to be walking past them, to go to the restaurant to meet her friend for lunch.
I have no doubt that she smiled at them, maybe even said, “Hi.” That’s how she was. In her mind God loved everyone, no matter their culture or religion.
The eyewitness said that one of the men grabbed her by the hair, covering her mouth with his hand, more than likely so she would not scream, he dragged her into the alley where the men took turns raping her, after they were finished, they knelt down as if in prayer.
Emily was left to die. When the police arrived on the scene, no one was around. The eyewitness was too traumatized by what she saw to be of any further help. She was paralyzed with fear. Eventually, she was convinced to testify in court, but as soon as the trial was over she moved away.
Our family drew together, we cried, we prayed and sought God for His help. We came to understand that sometimes there are things that are mysteries, things we cannot understand this side of Heaven. We know where Emily is, she waits for us to come there to be with her. She does not hurt anymore. I also believe that she has no memories of what she went through, how she died here on earth.
We came to understand that Jesus death was not unlike Emily’s death. He too was innocent, He too was wounded unto death, His blood pouring out of His bruised and broken body, even as Emily’s was. Some would say, “Small comfort that!”. Maybe for some, but not for us.
The breakthrough for us came when we began to understand the lost condition of the young men who had done this to Emily. They had been conditioned to believe a lie. They really did not know any better. They had been deceived by the enemy himself. We then could have compassion upon them and begin the process of forgiving them.
In time, we were able to move on with our lives. Rena and I sold our store to someone from town who loved it as much as we did. We enjoyed our days tending a little garden we had, visiting with friends and family and preparing our hearts for the time when we would “go home”.
It is written in the Word of God, “If you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:26
As we forgive and learn to lean the whole of our care upon Him, we can walk in the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Maturity in the Kingdom of God is to be like Jesus. How do you do that? Focus, study, that is how. As you focus upon Jesus and study the Word of God and Jesus life upon the earth you will be changed into His likeness. This is the will of our Father.
Hard times are ahead. Hide yourself in God. He is our Rock, our Refuge, our Hiding Place.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, may He make His face to shine upon you and give you peace in the midst of trouble, trial, terror, and trembling…this is my prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen!