Posts tagged Spirituality
EARS TO HEAR & EYES TO SEE

“Dad … can I sit by you?” Mitch said softly. It was mid-January and I was working from home that day. “Sure Mitch! I love it when you’re near me.” I then patted my hand on an extra chair, inviting him to sit with me. Mitch sat down holding his baby puppy close to his chest. Marlie looked at me as she snuggled deep into his arms. Mitch thought himself blessed to have a furry friend like Marlie. 

I turned my camera toward Mitch and he just stared into the lens. He didn’t try to posture himself for a photo – he did exactly what I always wanted … absolutely nothing. You see, Mitchie knew I wanted to capture moments unrehearsed … I wanted to capture life, not the imitation of it. So, Mitch gave me the moment. 

His almond eyes and soft expression my heart melted. In this same moment he gave me a curious look as if to say, “Dad, something’s wrong.” He didn’t need to say any words – I sensed it, too. Like a cold wind from the north, I felt a brooding sense that we were on the edge of a great and terrible change and my soul began to shiver. At the time, I didn’t know what was about to happen, I just knew something hard was coming. How hard, I knew not. For almost 2 years this feeling was growing. Looking back, I believe heaven warned me and helped me make the most of time I might have otherwise squandered.

As death drew closer, Mitch would begin to ask me deep questions about the purpose of life, death and what happens when we die. At the tender age of 10, an age that he should have been playing with toys, he faced the stuff of philosophers and theologians. He wanted to understand what too many adults often dismiss for cheaper thrills. 

In less than 6 weeks from this photo, Mitch would lay on his bed unable to open his eyes or speak as his body was shutting down. It is frightening to think how quickly our worlds can be turned upside down and inside out.

This same puppy who was at first frightened to be away from her mother, received great comfort from Mitch, and would soon return the favor with honor. The night he was slipping away, she would use her nose to lift his hand and nestle under his palm as if she knew he needed to touch her. Though he couldn’t open his beautiful eyes, he could move his fingers slightly. So, there on the side of this sacred bed, I filmed Mitchell’s tender fingers running softly through her baby coat. Eventually, when the end was upon Mitch, this little puppy curled around his head on his pillow. Then, within an hour, my baby boy slipped away.

I am a simple, flawed man and I don’t know much; but I know a few things for sure. One thing I know is, we are not alone. I know it all the way to the marrow of my bones. The moment I first laid eyes on newborn Mitch, my Father warned me with a distinct impression something was wrong. That impression persisted for three years until his diagnosis. Then, almost 2 years before he passed away, my Father returned and began to stir my soul with a great uneasiness. I didn’t know all that He was trying to tell me, I only knew He was preparing me for a spiritual winter. A time where darkness would become my home. Then, as my spiritual eyes began to adjust to the darkness of grief, I began to see little flecks of light … little tender mercies. Though I was in hell, I saw evidence of heaven and a Father who cared.

Yes, my heart is still broken and my soul is weary with grief. I long to find my son so that my mind might find some relief. My soul searches as if he were lost in some great wilderness. But alas, it is not he that is lost, but me. So I journey through the wilderness in search of heaven. I pray for ears to hear and eyes to see. Somewhere, out there, my little son waits for me.

GOLIATH AND THE LITTLE GIANT

Tiny Marlie stood bravely before Dragon, a much larger puppy. In Marlie’s mind, she was just as strong as her furry friend and always held her ground with a flurry of high-pitched barks and excited prancing. With one soft nudge of Dragon’s nose, tiny Marlie would topple over and roll into summersaults. Physically, she was no match. The moment she tumbled, she would jump to her feet and begin to bark as though nothing ever happened. In fact, she would bark like she was winning. Mitch smiled and giggled as he watched these two puppies play.

As I took this photo, the words crossed my mind, “Goliath and the little giant.” I couldn’t help but notice tiny Marlie as she stood bravely before her much larger friend, playful and strong. Marlie was a little giant – undaunted by what stood before her. In this same moment, I saw Mitch much like his puppy: a little giant of a different sort … a kind of giant you don’t see with your eyes, but sense with your soul. My mind then shifted to the ancient account of David and Goliath and what it meant to take fresh courage in the face of implacable odds.

I often wonder what crossed David’s mind as he stood in the long shadow of Goliath. I’ve heard so many variations of this quote that I don’t know who to attribute, but it has been said that courage is not the absence of fear, but the decision to act in spite of it. Did David’s soul shiver just a little bit at the sight of Goliath? Perhaps. Though small in stature as compared to his 9-foot opponent, David clearly possessed an inner strength and courage that cannot be forged by human hands or feigned by mortal hearts.

I did my best to teach Mitch that he was the son of a King and that he could call on Him for courage when the shadows of doubt grew especially dark or when his Goliaths seemed especially frightening. Mitch battled many Goliaths in his short life: he overcame fear, self-doubt, and a multitude of big and small battles – some so small they might seem insignificant to the casual observer, but to him, they were towering and he faced them bravely.

I sometimes wonder if mortals have life a little backward. We seem to measure so much by the accomplishment of big, visible things … the job promotion, the new car, or any number of accolades. Surely the big battles matter, but I’m persuaded that the little battles matter even more. Sometimes the big battles we face come because we ignored the little battles along the way. In like manner, victory is almost never achieved overnight but instead by little victories won over many days and nights. None of this is new thinking, and it has been said a million times by a million people. But we are human, and we are prone to forget. Perhaps, when we finally see with heaven’s eyes, we will discover to our great surprise that the little battles were really the big battles.

When confronted by his personal Goliaths, Mitch eventually won every battle with dignity and grace. Notice, I used the word "eventually". He didn’t always win at first, but he kept trying until he ultimately won. The one battle, however, he couldn’t win was that with death. As Mitchell’s final Goliath towered over him and stretched its long shadow, a shadow black as a moonless midnight, I admit I trembled with fear and anguish for my son. I cried out to the heavens, “Take me! Take me!” as though I could distract the Goliath of death and persuade it to come for me instead.

Like David, Mitch faced his ultimate Goliath with a kind of courage that cannot be forged by human hands or conjured up by mortal minds. Instead, he was strengthened by his knowledge of who he was and to whom he really belonged. Though Goliath was huge, David was filled with faith and a certain knowledge … which made him even huger. Mitch, too, was a little giant.

As I examine the past to learn and focus on my present to do, I have discovered one thing, maybe two. If Mitch could stand before his Goliaths, victorious, I know that I can, too. From the Goliath of grief to the quest for peace, I know this one thing is true: the little battles matter both for me and for you.

IT’S OKAY MOMMY
It’s okay, Mommy.” He said those same words just a few days prior when he told my wife and me that he didn’t think he could survive. In his moment of realization … when he knew he wouldn’t survive, he didn’t seek comfort from his mother … instead, he handed it to her selflessly. ‘I’ll be okay, Mommy.’
— Christopher M. Jones | Mitchell's Journey

Natalie had wept for a few hours. Exhausted from grief, she curled around her young boy’s head as if to comfort him – even though she was in the depths of hell and very much in need of comfort herself. 

There, in the quiet of a winter night, the world had fallen away into oblivion … and all that remained was our son whom we fought valiantly to save, but could not. As the warmth of his body drew cold, darkness gathered round us. How pitch black that darkness felt, I have not words to describe.

Just then, in that moment of profound agony, when hell seemed to open its mouth wide open … as if to swallow us whole, something sacred happened. Natalie felt a distinct impression that Mitch lingered … that he was with her in Spirit and she felt as if he whispered, “It’s okay, Mommy.” 

Comfort was his parting gift to his mother’s weary and broken soul. Comfort, and a knowledge that he still lives and loves her and that, at times in her life, he will be near to help. 

“It’s okay, Mommy.” He said those same words just a few days prior when he told my wife and me that he didn’t think he could survive. In his moment of realization … when he knew he wouldn’t survive, he didn’t seek comfort from his mother … instead, he handed it to her selflessly. “I’ll be okay, Mommy.” 

I don’t know why such heavy things were placed on his tender shoulders, for he was an innocent boy of deep faith and enduring goodness. He was honest, faithful and true. At 10 years old, he was everything I have ever hoped to be. Yet, he died. 

Some might say God is cruel or indifferent by letting such hardships happen to children. What they forget is that nobody makes it out of here alive. What’s more, the purpose of life is not to build homes and garnish them with material things. We are here to struggle and walk by the dim light of faith … and in our struggle, we will be made strong. That is an immutable law of nature that not only applies to our bodies and minds, but our souls. Struggle makes us stronger.

I have always appreciated the words of the French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who once observed, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Those are words to remember, especially when our bodies fail us and those we love.

I don’t know the meaning of all things, for I am yet a child who is learning to hear the voice of his Father. While I have much to learn, I have discovered a few things as I have stumbled in the valley of the shadow of death. I have come to know things I cannot deny: I know we are loved by a Father in ways we cannot yet comprehend, but I have felt a portion of that love and it has changed me from the inside out. I know that our spirits live on, for my dear wife and I have felt the presence of our son. I know that those who go before us can visit and offer us comfort in times of trouble.

As ancient Elisha once observed, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” I hope that my spiritual eyes will be opened so that I may see what is often hid from sight while living in mortality. I will always remember this dark winter night when my wife sensed our son’s presence, just beyond mortal sight. “It’s okay, Mommy” … a comfort and plea … whispered from a sweet little boy who wanted his mommy to see. 

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NOTE: I gave this to Natalie on Mother’s Day. We both wept as we reflected on this sacred evening where there was both the darkness of grief and the light of God. This art will be part of a book I plan to release later this fall.