Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000
Stephen D. Cloud is a Pastor in the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) and currently serves as Pastor of the Lillian Fellowship, www.lillianfellowship.org., in Lillian, Alabama. He and his wife, Laura, have four grown children. Cloud has written for several newspapers and magazines having published several books which include Walking with the Gospel: Devotions from the Gospel of Mark; Walking through the Psalms: Devotions from Psalms 1-30; and Behind a Frowning Providence and Other Stories of Hope (fiction). Cloud also shares his writings on his website www.interpretershouse.com.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance, in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:16)
I met my first grandson today. I had longed for and looked forward to meeting him. We had prayed daily for him since we heard he was on the way. His mom was sick for a while when she was pregnant. She was sick and in pain, but he seemed to not even know the troubles his parents endured while waiting for him to be born.
My grandson’s fingers are long. I thought about what a good baseball player he would someday be. It’s in his blood; both of his grandfathers were good players. His dad, uncle, and aunt were also. His little hands just looked like they were ready for a glove and a bat.
Long fingers make for good piano playing also. His aunt could teach him. He could be a pianist and a baseball player. Playing ball and playing music don’t have to be incompatible.
They put a blue hat on his head; I imagine a ball cap or even a straw hat on his head the first day I take him fishing. His face is all scrunched up – he has that bulldog look just like his dad had when he was born. My mind races thinking about all the things I will do with him, the things I will teach him. The possibilities make more tears well up in my eyes.
The day I met my first grandson was the longest day of my life. I have cried more today than all the days of my life together. I feel like Jeremiah must have felt when he wrote, “Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night” (Jeremiah 9:1)
“Her water has broken, y’all better come now,” came the midnight news. We raced north hearing some encouraging news as we drove. “She is resting better; baby’s heartbeat is strong, things seem okay right now.” It looked like a tough day, but I knew we were up for the battle.
Just after daybreak, our hearts would be crushed and sink deeply with despair. “They can’t hear the heart beat.” Hope against hope – the news never got any brighter.
The first time I met my first grandson – he was dead. His six foot three inch dad laid his head on my shoulders and we wept together. I tried to find words to comfort a daughter-in-law who somehow kept saying “I am so sorry” as if she had done something wrong. I still thought of baseball, fishing, and piano playing. “Papa (my father-in-law) is already in heaven, he will take care of Nate until we get there.” These were the only comforting words I could think of in that moment.
Nate died in his mother’s womb just a few days short of being conceived six months earlier. He was a handsome baby boy who never saw a day of life on this earth outside his mother’s womb.
I have vowed to God almighty since that day that I would not let this pain go to waste in my life or the life of my family. God has used this event to shape me, to sift me, and to refine me. And God has taught me many things through this painful experience.
I have always been pro-life. I believe that life begins at conception and the life of the unborn should be protected at all costs. I believe that as Christians we are called to be the voice of the voiceless and the benefactor of the helpless, but I also believe that being pro-life means more than being anti-abortion. How we treat children that are not aborted is very telling as to whether we are really pro-life. How we care for the elderly is also related to this issue.
I bewail even more now the fact that I live in a nation that says that our constitution gives a woman the right to end the life of a child inside of her. What kind of a nation could make such an abominable decision? What kind of judge could really think that such atrocious murder is somehow lawful? When I think about the implications of living in such a nation, I wonder how God can even let the United States of America exist at all. If we do not soon find sackcloth and ashes and put on the garments of repentance, God will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah, but if I understand the Scriptures at all, one thing is clear – God makes no apologies.
As a pastor for over 30 years, I have done my fair share of funerals. I have stood by more than a few caskets. While I did not do Nate’s funeral, standing by my family before a shoebox-sized casket was not an easy task. Other ministers opened the word of God and read of our hope in Jesus Christ. We sang the contemporary song “How Great is Our God.” I fight back tears now every time I hear the song, but I still do believe HE is great. In HIM, we have a great hope. I believe what the Scriptures say: HE is making all things new. (Revelation 21:5) HE will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
I will never forget the day I met my first grandson. The blessed hope given to us in Jesus Christ holds the possibility I may meet Nate again. I still plan on teaching him how to throw the guy out trying to steal second base, just like I taught his dad. On the other side, we’ll catch a few fish also. What life will be like on the other side is more than I can imagine, but I imagine it might be like this --
As I walked through the pearly gate, I first thought I was alone. The cloudy fog suddenly broke and I stood in the midst of a beautiful baseball field. A young boy approached me. He looked to be about 14 years old. His uniform was stained with clay; he looked like he had slid into second more than once. He was dressed in catcher’s equipment. As he walked closer I noticed that he had beads of sweat above his lip where some early signs of facial hair were evident. His face was dirty too. He looked like a kid who had been playing ball most of the afternoon. He had the catcher’s mask pushed up over his face but still on his head. He looked so much like Bryant, my son. He looked the way Bryant did when he had called time out to go out to tell the pitcher to settle down and throw strikes. He held a nearly new baseball in his hand. The mitt was neatly folded, still on his hand, but held pressed against his left shoulder. His right foot was turned inward a little. His dark brown eyes sparkled as he said to me, “they told me you would be here today and that you knew how to make a good throw to second. Could you show me? I’ve been waiting for you to show me the right way?” I said to him, “Show me what you have?” He crouched behind the plate, rose and threw a nearly perfect throw to second. “Can’t improve on that much, except let me show you how to get rid of the ball quicker.” I took his mitt and another ball from off the ground nearby. I crouched behind the plate as he watched me. “You have to come up throwing. Shorten your motion and explode off that back foot like this.” My throw bounced once before second base. He laughed a little, but then took another ball and took his stance behind the plate. He came up and threw a rope that crossed second base about knee high just to the right of the bag. “Wow!” I said. “That was perfect!” I put my arm around his shoulder as we walked off the field down a magnificent trail. “What’s your name, son?” He said, “You know who I am.” I said, “It’s great to meet you again, Nate. We’ve missed you so much!” “I missed you too, Grandaddy.”
“Hey Nate, let’s go fishing this afternoon!” “Sounds good to me Grandaddy.”
Printed December 1, 2010; The Lillian; Lillian, AL
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