At the very end of small group last night I got an email from "Caring Bridge". John, Anne Hartline's husband, has been keeping everyone up to date on her condition and it looked like her time with us here was getting short. She graduated at 6:45pm yesterday.
I saw her last week and she really looked good. I have been trying to get to see her at least once a week, as it seemed that she was on her last steps of her journey here on earth. What an encouragement she was/is to me and to so many others as well. I just wanted to reciprocate the encouragement, if I could, in some way.
We talked about Chemo, adoption and Ethiopia- she liked being able to "travel" to Ethiopia from her "throne" in the living room. We talked about how God has to take care of not only each one of our needs but all the needs of all the people in the entire world and how overwhelming that is for us to think about. We talked much about her ministry here and the way she was living her faith out. She told me that it was very interesting to her how she always had thought that her ministry was to kids as a SS teacher. She loved the kids and she faithfully served in that capacity for many years, but then she found out what her REAL ministry was.
She touched many little lives, one of which was Grant in the 3rd and 4th grade, but she touched so many others when she got cancer some 12 years ago. Her main ministry, it seems, was in how she suffered and died, more than how she lived what she called her normal life. And she really lived as she was dying. She lived for Christ, being poured out as a drink offering as many of us looked on. Her pouring out enabled others to be filled up.
We talked about "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain" and how in our suffering that concept makes so much more sense. When we have it all it is so difficult to live for Christ because we get so distracted by things that don't really matter that much. When we have to face up to the fact that the end here is close- more often than not we don't pay any attention to the fact that we all are currently dying- we look at passages like this and really understand that it will be so much better when we are with our Savior than it will ever be, or has ever been, here on earth, but until He calls us home and says, "Well done", we must continue to do the work He has for us to do. That work takes on so many different forms and in Anne's life it was all the way from the SS class to the "chemo lounge", but God had prepared her to do that work perfectly.
Anne is leaving a hole in our little community but God knows exactly what He is doing. He gave her relief from the pain and suffering for the 1st time in a long time. Today, and for eternity, she gets to bask in the Sunshine of The Son's face. She got to meet face to face the One who gave her the reason to live. She has no more distractions or sin left to fight. Today she has the Prize.
How are we doing at being poured out? Are we trying to keep the cup upright so nothing spills out? We must be poured out into the lives of others and while we are poured out we are continually being filled up. Don't try to keep your cup full by not spilling over onto others, try to spill over as much as you can and watch Him keep you full.
We will miss Anne but she ran, blessed others, shared the Gospel, reflected Christ and finished. Is there much more to this life than that?