By: Leslie Vernick
Several years ago I experienced something that was terrible and wonderful at the same time. My mother died of lung cancer; she was only sixty-nine.
For most of my adulthood, my mother had not been a part of my life. She didn’t attend my wedding, nor, before her illness, had she ever been to my home. She missed seeing her grandchildren grow up. The bleak diagnosis of cancer was, for her, the worst thing she could imagine but God graciously transformed it into the best thing of her life. It brought us together and brought her to Jesus.
When I was eight years old, my parents divorced and after several years of mom’s alcoholism and abusive behavior, my father gained custody of my younger sister, brother, and me. My mother remarried and moved to another state. She chose not to stay in contact with her children.
God helped me to forgive her but we never were reconciled. Perhaps she felt too guilty or proud. I was too afraid of more rejection to attempt to navigate the murky waters of a new relationship. I wanted her to approach me first. But grace changed all that.
When my mother became ill, God infused my siblings and me with an overwhelming desire to pursue a relationship with her. We rushed to the hospital to be with her. I massaged her hands and feet with lotion. I combed her hair and soothed her parched lips with balm. When I returned home, I called her every day.
My sister brought mom to Chicago to live with her during her chemotherapy and radiation treatments. In May, I flew from Pennsylvania to Chicago to celebrate our first Mother’s Day together in 35 years. That summer, Mom came to my home for a visit where we had long talks sitting on my deck and she got to know my grown children.
Day after day, week by week, I was getting to know my mother for the first time. I was surprised how much alike we were, even though I hadn’t lived with her since I was fourteen. She would often say, “I can’t believe how good you kids are to me, I don’t deserve it.” She allowed herself to receive and enjoy the gift of grace that God gave us for our mom. And, it changed her life—and her death.
Like me with my mother, God longs for a relationship with us. God’s grace is his passionate desire to restore us to full fellowship, even though we have terribly wounded and offended him. His grace motivated him to die on the cross (even when we didn’t deserve it) to make that fellowship possible. Grace doesn’t minimize sin. It looks beyond it to the person, seeking to forgive and hoping for reconciliation and full restoration.
Is there someone in your life that God wants you to express his extravagant and undeserved favor towards? Don’t wait. It may change his or her life.