Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Finally, Truly Alive

Two weeks ago on a Monday, my helper arrived distraught.  One of her closest friends passed away a few days earlier.  She woke up with Jesus, the same morning that her daughter and husband woke up with headaches in bed next to her abandoned tent....  there had been an accident with the gas heating.  The Lord knew.  He called this young mom home.  
Zhun Fang, who helps me clean and watch kiddos two mornings a week when I study, told me of her friend’s love for the Lord, her happy marriage, and her previously bright-eyed four year old daughter.  She told me how this friend came weekly to her house to sit with her and the two foster boys that she had cared for for years.  Jie Cong, whose name means smart (even years of severe Cerebal Palsy could never mask his sharp mind)...Jie Cong, who could barely speak, understood everything, and he wept that this friend of his too was gone from them.   It was a sorrowful but glad time for Zhun Fang to know and see this son of her heart grieve with hope as he too trusted in the Lord for forgiveness and for life eternal. 

And then came Friday, the next time I saw her.  She was not suffering from week old grief.  Zhun Fang arrived more distraught than I’d ever seen her before.  I asked her to sit down as soon as she came in the door.  Death had struck again.  Jie Cong this time, was home with the Lord.  Died in his sleep in their home one day before.  She knew she could have called and not come to work that morning, but she wanted to get out of the house, have a diversion from the grief.  

I wish I had recorded her sharing with me, the tears, the memories of this young man that her whole family loved.  They had him in their home for only three years.  She knew that people with CP rarely live to 20 (she told me) but she just wished she could have cared for him for another year... at least.  He was only 16.

ZF and her husband, their two biological sons and two disabled foster sons (Jie Cong is in the red shirt)
Caring for him meant incredible vigilance around the clock to simply keep him warm enough to live and not to freeze to death, in the winter months in their home, and to change his bed rags and hold up a bottle for him to pee every hour or two 24/7.  As for feeding, every single bite he swallowed was a severe difficulty.  “If only there had been one more year...”
They would have had one more year of his delight to see them when they came home.  One more year of his help to care for the younger kids (a foster brother who was also disabled and Zhun Fang’s biological son):  he would cry out for help to come if anything got out of hand.  One more year of his consideration for others:  he would nod ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to questions always affirming his affection and care for others.
Greg Lucas, a father who has been transformed by the Lord’s grace in his life as he and his wife have raised their own son with severe disabilities, has recently written Wrestling with an Angel:  A Story of Love, Disability and the Lessons of Grace.  The first three of his lessons learned are this:  God is still sovereign and good, God has good purpose to bring out of this, and disability magnifies our vision for joy in the smallest things.  Three lessons well worth learning and living well.  
And Zhun Fang did just that.   Of course parents boast about their kids, and I've done it too, but rarely, if ever, have I seen such a humble love and true affection and delight in children like Zhun Fang has.  There seems to be no selfish boasting in her love....   Her intense love for her boys is a glad, grateful love:  “God has given us really good gifts in these boys and we are honored and delighted to get to know and serve and love and be loved by them.”

This is all stirring in me so powerfully because I just finished Eric Metaxas’ biography on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.   (A million lines I wish I could write of my gladness and gratitude to be introduced to this life through this biography.)  Bonhoeffer fought against the Nazi’s for the sake of the Jews, but there, in his masterful storytelling, Metaxas, also highlighted the disabled people who fell under a similar Nazi shadow.   The Hell-drenched Nazi reasoning was this:  that disabled people are “useless eaters....” and "life unworthy of life"  (Metaxas, 184.)

These men, who villainously chose death for millions, were the ones who were most blinded to life.  With their nasty disguises of falsified Christianity they were totally blind to the True Life Giver, to goodness and beauty in this world that all comes from him.    And as for the Third Reich, killers of Jews, Poles, disabled, and whoever they didn't like, as Metaxas says... in their deaths, they "fell in to the hands of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."  (p 404.)
I wish Jie Cong could have lived healthy, but in his sickness and weakness, he left a beautiful mark of love in how he gave all he could to others and in what he inspired in their lives too.    And now he is alive.  Living fuller than any of us here have dared imagine.  As Dwight Moody once told a reporter a few months before his death (paraphrase):  "Soon, you'll hear it said that Dwight Moody is dead.  Don't you believe it for a second.  When this body is done I will be more alive than I have ever been, and I will be with Life Himself."  

Well done Zhun Fang, in loving Jie Cong so well.  And well done Jie Cong... you made it!  Into the arms of the God who sent Christ into our mire after you; the Father who breathed life into you and has now unwrapped you from the grave clothes and washed clean death's stains from the tent that you lived in in our fallen land.    

Praise be to the God who saves and loves us so.  

Photos by Jake Bell.  August 2011.


  1. What a beautiful, life-affirming, honoring tribute to Jie Cong! Thank you for, again, reminding me that death no longer holds a sting for us. Your words, as always, have spoken to my heart.

  2. Oh Jill, you have shared a heart-changing story. Thank you. And you do it with a gift from God for telling stories. Thank you. So, so thankful.

  3. Oh such an amazing sweet servant! God is glorified!!! What this world might call foolishness, God has called wise!!! Oh the sweet fragrance of a life glorifying Jesus! Praying for your friend. And thankful that she has such a sweet encourager-you :). For the expansion of His Kingdom and Glory!

  4. Dearest Jill,
    Thank you for sharing this story with us. I just smile to think of this young man in his perfect body enjoying the delights of heaven and seeing our Risen Lord. Death is the enemy but our faith Jesus gives us the victory! Praise His name!
    I will pray for you as you continue to minister to your friend and her family. Thank you for being the light to so many. I love you so much dear daughter in law. Mom K

  5. Please tell Zhun Fang we are sad with her all the way here in America and that we do rejoice with her in the knowledge that this sweet boy is dancing in heaven. May she have God's peace in this grieving journey.

  6. Such joy and sorrow all mingled together. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story of hope and faithfulness. I am praying you can be an encouragement to Zhun Fang through this time of learning to let go and move forward with life as it is now.