Judson Levasheff's Memorial service was today. He died last Wednesday and was 2 years and 10 months old. A bright, shining, smiley, polite, sweet sweet little boy.
I have never been to a memorial service (or any service for that matter) that was so honest.
Throughout Judson's sickness, the past 5 months, Drake and Christina, his parents, have been praying with utter confidence for God to heal Jud's body. Their faith has been pushed and pulled and stretched and held to fire, but they've still prayed and still believed, and asked hundreds to pray with them.
For the first few months after Judson's diagnosis, I found myself praying for everything but Judson's healing. It was a rational decision, even theologically based. I knew that God could do anything, heal any person, perform a radical miracle, but I knew he probably wouldn't. So for that, my prayers would go something like "please heal Judson if that's part of your plan, but if you don't then... (the bulk of my prayer)"
For months I watched (and read about on their blog) Drake and Christina's faith, which was completely tangled up with excruciating pain, grief and questioning. Despite all the darkness that was filling their lives, their faith remained and seemed solid enough to in with my hand. And as the months went by, I found that I actually was holding it, looking at it, wondering. Slowly I began to ask whether I believed that God could heal Jud and wouldn't, or that I didn't believe he really could or that I didn't believe that our asking would change God, or that I was too scared to risk hoping for a miracle, for something that might or might not happen, was too scared to believe and to voice that belief out loud? It became clear that the truth lay in all of those things. And slowly, over a week or so in early September, despite myself, I found myself praying that Jud would "take up his mat and walk," and that for the first time, I could picture him well and believe he might be.
The pastor at the service today told us that he'd had a similar experience; he discovered that his seemingly-theological stance, like mine, was actually masking a weak belief, that he didn't want to be disappointed, didn't want anyone else to be disappointed, and that, in a foolish way, he felt that he needed to "protect God's reputation." How perfectly put. As if God needs us as front men -- read Job (Judson's favorite story) for a picture of a man who, against all we understand as reasonable, saw and knew God.
Throughout the service there were videos of Judson, so verbal, funny and expressive, photos and stories. Then, about halfway through the almost-2-hr service, a couple stood up, good family friends of the Levasheffs, and essentially said, Drake and Christina took a risk and believed that God would heal Judson's body. Not only that, they chose to make their hope public and to ask others, many of whom joined them, to pray for healing with them. Today, they are having to bury Judson rather than throw him a party for his healed body. This is not what they prayed for.
(a huge exclamation point shot off over my head in the audience because that is what I -- and probably so many others -- were reckoning with: how do you pray confidently for something, with belief that it will happen, and still know God is with us and loving us beyond all measure if our prayer isn't answered?).
I wish I had their words verbatim and also the words that Drake spoke after them, echoing the same concern, a lack of understanding, disappointment. Though I can't recall word-for-word, what struck me most, wasn't their phrasing, but the fact that in the face of bitter anguish, they each stood up and said, our prayer wasn't answered, but God is. I am reeling with questions, but I know I am reeling in the safest hands.