God is never more present

Published 9:29 am Saturday, October 21, 2017

By Robin Zaruba

My wife, Danielle, and I left Texas on June 4, expecting an exciting and fulfilling 10 week sabbatical trip around the United States, graciously provided through the love of our church. Little did we know how different things would turn out for us. About 3 days after we left we got a call that Danielle’s mother, Myra, had taken a fall and broken her hip. Though a frail woman, Myra was only 73, which is relatively young by today’s standards. We monitored her progress from surgery through rehab from afar, with varying degrees of progress and setback. However, we never thought she would take a turn for the worse. But that is exactly what happened. This woman, who was like a second mother to me, started to steeply decline on the 16th of July. Heading out of Philadelphia the next day we made the decision to drive straight back, taking turns so we could get back as soon as possible. We arrived 28 hours later at the hospital in Beaumont to be by Myra’s side. Less than a week later she was gone.
We had canceled all of our reservations subsequent to returning, so we just hovered in a geographic and emotional limbo between Kingwood (our home) and Mauriceville for the next four weeks. As I returned to the church office on August 21 I was relieved to get back to some normalcy in routine and relationships. That all changed when all of us found ourselves at varying degrees of risk, as the effects of Harvey were felt all around the Houston and Golden Triangle area.

I have to admit, when I look back at our sabbatical, I have some great and fond memories of all the places we were able to visit during our time away. But I also have to admit that I can never recall a time of comfort and plenty in which God has called me to deep change and meaning. God usually only has that opportunity when we are at the end of our rope, with God our only hope. But it is precisely in those moments when we find that He is never more present. He is present in that still, small voice within us that suddenly becomes crystal clear, and He is present in us, His Image-bearers, as we live out Matthew 25:40, helping the least of these. In the good times we flagellate ourselves about how we could do better, more, and quicker. But I am comforted by the fact that when crisis comes and we are truly called on to show His love, we do it without a thought. There is no better evidence of His life in us than when we do His will without a second thought.
In the book “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry, Captain Woodrow Call confronts a man that is beating his son over the issue of a horse. Captain Call exacts his justice on the man, saving his son from the would-be abuser. Woodrow then glibly observes to the onlookers, “I hate rudeness in a man. I won’t tolerate it.”

You and I have experienced a good deal of rudeness in our lives up to this point. But I can truly say that we and many in our community put away callousness and indifference to help our fellow sufferers. And it was done on spiritual instinct.
Myra’s death and the effects of Harvey have been, at least for me, opportunities for God to whisper, “I am here and I am not silent. Death and destruction will not ultimately win.”

Thank you, churches, for being the church. For loving your community and families. For praying for them. For taking care of strangers. Thank you, everyone. We are never more like Christ and never more in the center of His will than when we are living out His gospel and His life-changing love. Well done.