Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Picture by Jesse Weiler
As the title suggests, the Lord Jesus brought my brother and friend, Tom Lamb, home recently. Tom was ready to go home and I’m not sure any of us can be any happier for Tom knowing that he’s with Jesus now. That’s not to say we’re all happy not having him here with us. It’s difficult to accept that we won’t be able to see his warm smile around anymore.
My cousin Tammy, Tom’s wife, now has to go on with life without her loving husband at her side. It’s going to seem strange for her trying to assimilate to her daily routine with Tom’s absence. The comfort she can take with her is knowing that Tom is waiting for her to join him one day. And that will be a reunion that will be celebrated in Heaven.
In a way, some would say morbid, I actually envy Tom. I’m not saying I’m suicidal or anything like that, but I do believe that Tom is in a place far more wonderful than we can imagine. In Heaven, there is no pain or suffering. There’s no sin either. It’s a perfect place.
Some describe Heaven with no sense of imagination. They picture Heaven as being some boring place with nothing to do but play harps. Or something similarly. I don’t believe Heaven is remotely like that. With Heaven, I don’t think we can use our minds enough to imagine what Heaven is like. It’s a place where Jesus said there’d be many rooms. And if Jesus is in the design of the new Heaven and the new earth, then there’s no doubt it will be perfect.
I think we can get a sense of what Heaven will be like through the Bible’s description of the Garden of Eden. It was a place where God walked with man. There was everything there that man needed to sustain him. When people think about paradise with clear, blue waters and sandy beaches and palm trees, that’s nothing compared to Heaven. I heard someone say that if you were to take everything that paradise is described like such as perfect weather, beaches, trees, and so on along with no worries, cares, or fear, it wouldn’t even scratch the surface. Take all these things, add in perfect relationships, perfect health, and perfect mind, body, and soul, you still wouldn’t get close. In fact, take everything that you ever thought of what Heaven would be like and magnify it a hundred fold, you might then get close to describing Heaven.
And Heaven is where Tom is. So where does that leave us? For one, we’re left with the memories of Tom. Tom actually did a little more than that by leaving a legacy. He began his life like many of us do such as living contrary to God’s plan and purpose for his life. He went through rebellious and destructive behavior. He hurt those close to him.
However, all of that changed when he surrendered to Jesus. His life went through an overhaul as God began to work and soften his heart. Tom became more concerned for others. He wanted to make amends and ask for forgiveness for how he hurt those he loved. After Tom was diagnosed with cancer, he sat down and wrote a letter with Tammy to be read at his funeral. In the letter he made mention of a desire to be forgiven from those he hadn’t had the chance to reconcile. Despite facing his own mortality, Tom was still concerned for others.
There’s probably a lot more that could be said regarding Tom’s conversion. Trying to put it in words, however, doesn’t seem to be adequate for how Tom impacted all of us. I didn’t know Tom before Christ. But I got to know the man that God was working on and what I witnessed was impressive enough. People were always coming up to Tom, whether it was at a restaurant, at work, at the store, or walking down the street. Tom made people feel special and he had a gift of being able to draw them out and show a genuine interest in them. He asked questions and made them feel like he truly cared about who they were, what they were going through, and how he could help.
For me, I’m going to miss one of my best friends. It would be naïve of me to think that I was Tom’s best friend because he had so many close friends, people who loved him very much. But I didn’t, and still don’t, have that many close friends. That’s one of the reasons Tom’s friendship meant the world to me. We talked many times about our struggles. We confided in each other and we both knew we could trust each other. He was a true brother in every sense of the word.
It pains me to think about the future. Not that the future is something to fear. No, I only realize that over time my memory of Tom will begin to fade. Not that I want to forget. I just know how it is with me. My dad died when I was 16 years old. I’m 44 now and I have only faint memories of my dad apart from stories other people tell me. The same will happen with my memories of Tom. I suppose one thing I can take from this is knowing I’ll see him one day again. I imagine all the good memories will be there when we do meet up and we’ll get to talk and laugh again just like we used to.
I feel bad for Tammy. I know this is hard on her. She sometimes shares her memories using the Caring Bridge website I believe as a means to help her through the healing process. Already she has shared with her friends that each day and each event brings about a set of “firsts” without Tom. She recognizes all the things that Tom did for her and around the house that she took for granted. Tom didn’t let the dust settle as he was one to get things done. But now Tammy has to take on the responsibility of making sure the work gets done herself. It saddens me to think about how alone she might be feeling. However, I know she’s not truly alone.
The amazing thing about Tammy is not that she’s strong. It’s that she’s willing to show her weaknesses and her vulnerability. It’s in her weakness that God shows Himself to be strong. She shares her sorrow and her tears. She allows herself to feel, to mourn, and to grieve. Often she goes back to Scripture and shares with all of us the verses that are speaking the loudest and have the most meaning to her in her life currently. To some, that may not sound like much. But in reality, it’s the one thing that is going to help keep her going. She’s leaning heavily upon Jesus and that’s where she’s the safest and that’s where she’s going to find the greatest comfort. I don’t have any reason to be concerned for Tammy. She’s in God’s hands and there’s no better place to be.
My wife, Shelby, and I are definitely going to miss all the fun times we had with Tom and Tammy. Tom was still making plans with Shelby the last time we visited Iowa to see him. He talked about riding four wheelers (ATVs) out in east Tennessee. We had talked many times in the past how we would get together at the Creation Museum and even go snowmobiling up in Wisconsin. Now I suppose the next time we see Tom there are going to be far more exciting adventures than the plans we dreamed up here in this life. And, I know, that is yet in the future.
But Tom’s home right now. And all of us have to continue the journey. If there’s something to take from this that stands out is that life is short. We’re not guaranteed a tomorrow. Not to make a cliché out of this but it’s true, we need to make the most out of the life we’ve been given. The trick is to know what that means. Tom figured it out. I believe he knew it was “Love God and love people.” That simple. Well, the message is simple. I have a hard time living it out myself. But that’s the goal. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. All the laws and the prophets hang on these two commands. (Mark 12:30)
I hope we all can live out our lives with that grand purpose. Maybe, like Tom, we can finish the race knowing that we’ve done everything we could to love God and love people. Then maybe the memories of Tom will not fade away so much as it will spur us on as we live purpose-filled lives, like Tom, for Jesus.