I wrote the following piece just before the funeral of one of my best friend’s daughte]]> Malina was Miss Auburndale and Florida’s Miss Congeniality at that year’s state pageant for Miss America. There are few people who were as beautiful as Malina inside and out. ]]>She was killed by a drunk driver as she drove home following her parents in their car. She died instantly at the very beginning of her adult life. She was working at an Orlando home for troubled girls. She just wanted to help people and do the work God gave her to do. She was a true martyr. For what cause? The sin we allow to take so many]]>
She was preceded in death by her husband of barely one year.
There is no way word]]> If you didn’t know her there is no way that I could put words together to help you appreciate her special beauty. She was one of those rare ]]>
The shock and sadness weakens your mind and body as you grasp for answers when there are none. Nothing makes sense. Keith and Malina were the ]]> They were on the front lines willing to do God’s work. So dedicated and ready. And now they are gone. How can we win the battle when we lose our best?
And so we ask, “Why Malina?” as if God has a quota that has to be filled. A certain number have to go today and we wonder why it can’t be someone that isn’t doing anything useful or maybe someone that is doing bad things. Why can’t He take a few of them? If we didn’t have so many doing bad things and had more like Malina and Keith the world would be a lot better place.
But I doubt that God has a quota system. I do think that God has choices, but they aren’t always good ones. To the people asking why Malina, I have to ask could it be you? If God had decided to take you would you be ready? If the answer is “No” then that is why He in His goodness didn’t take you.
If the only people that die are the elderly and infirmed would we ask the great questions of life? “Why did Gramma die?” “Because she was old.” “Oh.” and that would be the end of it. But life is the pondering and the answering of the great questions of life. The way we live our life is our answer. The way Malina lived hers was her answer.
Is there anything beyond this? Is there a Heaven or Hell people go to? We each have to answer this. And then we ultimately have to answer, “Who goes there?” “Will I go there?” Some people decide if you are a pretty good person you get to go there. And so they try to be a pretty good person. And that’s nice. It’s a better world when people try to be good people. But because everybody isn’t perfect we have to decide where He draws the line. And what about those who did bad things and are sorry for them? Ultimately we have to decide if Jesus figures into the equation anywhere.
Then some decide there is a heaven, but they could never make it. They are too bad. They deserve Hell. They have decided God is a judgmental God but not a merciful God. They have decided their bad is worse than Jesus’ good. They may even believe in Jesus. They just believe His ability to pay for their sin falls a little short. So why bother to try if you are going to Hell anyway? And so they live life getting as much out of it as they can, knowing they will eventually pay. They accept this fact. God in His mercy often allows them to live as He attempts to turn around their thinking.
“Why Malina?” Because God wants heaven peopled by the best not just the worst or the sickest. He wants the rest of us to ponder again and again our actions in the light of eternity. Because seeing Jesus is just too vague to many people, He makes it more real. Because many can’t really ponder if they will see Jesus, He makes them wonder if they will see their father or mother or brother or sister or favorite loved one. He does seem to take the special one, but I’m sure many who die are probably mediocre. He’s probably being fair. We just don’t notice so much.
When I lost Dadra, my little girl of three and a half, it was as if God looked my whole life over and took out the most special thing. I’m sure my mother could say the same about losing my brother. Before she died, the foundation of my life was as a happy person to whom sad or bad things happened once in a while. After she died, the foundation of my life was sad and some happy things happen. And I didn’t know how to change it. I didn’t want it to be so. It just was.
The Bible says out of our ashes of mourning will come joy. I can honestly say God has given me a new foundation: joy. Dadra’s gift to our family has been healing and wholeness and joy. Not because she herself could give it but because through losing her we went to God and He gave it. The truth is our happiness is punctuated with sorrow when it comes from things we enjoy on this Earth. Now even my sorrow has a foundation of peace punctuated by joy.
I know it looks like God allowed it because He didn’t care enough to prevent it. But really God allowed it because He cared enough to prevent greater losses and that is of everyone who loved Malina. If you want to see her in the future, I recommend obedience. Obedience to that still small voice not just once, but every day. It is a daily walk.
Because of my little girl, I started my Christian walk in obedience. I just could not say no to God year after year and think I would see her some day. Maybe you can. It may be difficult to do some of the things He shows me to do but I have to do them. And out of my obedience has come my joy and my relationship with Him. I feel sorry for those Christians that don’t have anything special enough to prod them into obedience.
And so I yield this choice to God. Knowing that He loves and cares for us all. Knowing that He knows the brokenness this will bring. And also knowing the healing He can bring. I just believe someday we will look back amazed at the wonderful work He has been able to wrought as a result of Malina’s home-going. She blessed our lives greatly when she was here. Her death will not end the beauty that she will add to us if we let her.
Just as Jesus had to go, so did Malina. She and Keith are not better than Him. And they were dedicated to serve. We just didn’t realize what that service would be. Knowing this, would we hold them back? I think not. And again Jesus says to us “I will send you a Comforter.” And so I say “Come.” I am ready to receive what He has for my life as Malina and Keith were. I hope you will, too. It’s the best choice we have. Now He yields the choices to us. And I ask, “Do you want to see Malina again?”
I mailed a copy of “The loss of a loved one” also posted on the website. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, you really should read that, too. The following is the letter I wrote to her personally. Keith and Malina had gone to Israel to teach children in a school there. Keith had died from carbon monoxide fumes and Malina had been miraculously spared. She kept the letter with her it meant so much to her. I refer to her unusual peace at this time.
I don’t want you to think I didn’t think of you. Heaven knows it has been bombarded with my prayers and Lamar’s and the rest of the family. The same day we got the call about Keith we also got a call that a friend’s brother’s foot had been crushed by a steel beam falling on it. Your loss put that in perspective. Though that too is a tragedy and I ask you to put him, on your prayer list.
I knew you would have the swirl of things and people going on around you for a while and wanted my letter to arrive after most of that calmed down. I hope the enclosed writing will help you. I have written many letters to the bereaved and this is one with the specifics taken out. Everything is different and yet nothing is different for those who lose a loved one.
I don’t know what God will show you to do and I just want you to stay open and not let this make you fearful. He will guide you and only you. His guidance has a peace in it. When you don’t have peace, you aren’t in His way. As I said in the piece, take one day at a time, not looking forward or back. Actually we only ever have this moment.
Right now you will find everybody sticking thermometers in you. Is she O.K? How is she now? And you will find you can’t play the games. You can’t put up with things you did before. You can’t make decisions. So many things become insignificant. Who cares? You sure don’t! I just want you to know this is natural.
Some may not understand your peace at this time and even question your love. They don’t understand that being any different would not change anything. If anything would have changed it, I would have done it. Nothing did. Except that by doing my best, by not letting grief sink me and fighting to rise above it gave me many special times and took me out of it for as long as possible. Grant was 5 1/2 and Matt was 1 and I went on to have Spencer 2 years later. I could not allow grief to steal their childhood from them. It wouldn’t have been fair. And so I did my best and those who didn’t understand have long since gone.
All around you are girls who are grieving for so many tragedies in their lives. I know God will help you to minister to them. Your generation is a broken generation and in your brokenness you will be able to reach out in a way you never could in your happiness.
All I can say is this is the beginning of a very special work. Do not fear walking through this valley with Him. He will be there again and again in the most astounding ways. Weigh what others say and take these thoughts to Him and let Him sort out what is from Him and what is not. And then lovingly do your thing (His thing in you).
I love you and will support you in any decision you make. And eventually the others will, too.