Four Years Ago Today

May 21, 2001 is the day Joshua Mark Hicks “went home.” The quotations marks have significant meaning because I don’t think Joshua went home. Home is with me; home is in this creation. God created this world as our home and death is an alien invader that disrupts the shalom of this world. But I do acknowledge “home” in the sense that home is authentically home with God–dwelling with God in his dwelling place; sharing in the perichoresis of the divine fellowship as face-to-face communion. So, Joshua “went home.” But he is not fully at home as yet since God’s intent has not yet been fully wrought–home is the new heaven and new earth where all the saints share the fellowship of the Triune God and with each other. And I yearn for that home.

Especially today, May 21. Four years ago I watched my son breathe his last breath on my living room floor as he laid there on his pallet. It had been a long ordeal–over ten years of living with his terminal genetic condition. The last six years he was unable to voice whatever his mind may have been thinking. It is painful to hold your son, express your love and not be able to hear him reciprocate that love except by–and it was wonderful to hear–his cooing and smiling.

The last six years he was also in a wheelchair of some kind and basically confined to that chair or bed for the last two years. He withered away in front of our eyes; sixteen years old and 40 pounds when he died.

So, today is a reminder, a remembering and a groaning for the future. My Joshua–the one whom we thought would lead God’s people–is “home”. He now experiences the meaning of his name as I wait to experience the fullness of that salvation and be at “home” with him.

I have not written much about the death of my son, though I have often spoken of it in churches across the world. But that experience, along with the death of my father and first wife, Sheila, has shaped my theology in significant ways. I breathe eschatology because of those experiences, I suppose.

Indeed, Joshua’s death (and subsequent tragic events following his death) shaped the writing of Come to the Table. I wish I had been more explicit about it in the book, and if I were to rewrite it now, I would stress the eschatological dimension much more. The paper I am presently writing, which will be published in a book by IVP, will supplement the book in this key dimension.

You see, every Sunday–and as often as I partake–I experience the table as eschatological presence. The worship is “heaven on earth” (as our Orthodox friends like to say), and the table is a table in the presence of the heavenly realities. Around the table, the Lord Jesus serves me and, most significantly, my son. There–as the eschaton breaks into the present–I experience the joy of being “at home” with my son…and with Dad, and Sheila, and Barry, and…. The table is truly a table of joy.

Tommorrow, the table (surrounded by friends and family) will transform even May 21 into a joy as I experience “home” with my son.

Thanks for listening. Shalom.



10 Responses to “Four Years Ago Today”

  1.   Keith Brenton Says:

    My blogging sister Dee encouraged me to share my post of yesterday with you – and I think she’s right. Thank you for your willingness to share your insight, your transparency, your very heart.

    The truth is, my wife Angi had a chance to study Come to the Table with a luncheon group of about 12 at church who actually put into practice your recommendations for the paschal meal, and she was very blessed by it. I didn’t have the chance, and read the book later. I should have been more open.

    Thank you for a glimpse at the face of God – seen through the eyes of a father looking at his beloved son Joshua.

  2.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thanks for point me to your post, Keith. It was an example of postive introspection and consequent action. I appreciate how you have modeled something positive for all of us.

    I was aware that some folk at your congregation studied the book around the table, but not aware, of course, that your wife was one of them. I am grateful that it was a good experience for her.

    Blogging, apparently–and I am new to it–is one of the ways God is working in his church today. Through sharing, thinking and dialoging together perhaps the kingdom of God fills the earth just a bit more.

    Shalom,

    John Mark

  3.   Dee O'Neil Andrews Says:

    John Mark -

    I encouraged Keith Brenton to come to you today, and I’m so glad he did. As I said in my comment there this morning, I only know so many new fellow Christians through blogging.

    But as you say, it seems to be “one of the ways God is working in his church today.” It has truly been a blessing for me, as I’ve been confined at home and completely off my feet (except for propped up under the computer or on the coffee table) for nearly two months and will be a while longer. (I’ve been diabetic for 35 years and it’s taking it’s toll physically.)

    I read your post this morning and all of your links to Joshua, your dad and Sheila and was very moved. I also feel a great kinship to you, even though I’m a few years older, because of so many similarites in our lives.

    I’m from West Texas – Abernathy, just above Lubbock – and know the country well. My dad was an elder in Abernathy for several years and, along with the other elders and Cline Paden, about 1964 helped to start something brand new that they thought of – a small school for young Hispanic men from New Mexico in Abernathy who could come learn to preach and then go back to their home towns to work and preach.

    They and Cline Paden went to the Sunset congregation in Lubbock seeking help, and we know how that turned out! Because of their work (and my mom has all of the original notes and receipts from their expenditures in getting it off the ground), Sunset School of Preaching began and look how far flung it is today!! World wide!! It’s mind boggling.

    So – I really identify when you talk about your dad and mom. My mom, who is 83, now lives in Abilene and is still a strong force in my life.

    Plus – when I was first married previously we lived in Falls Church, Virginia for 6 1/2 years from 1967 to 1973. So, we were “neighbors” of so many of thoe places you talk about in Virginia. Falls Church was strong in foreign missions then and I met so many wonderful missionaries and housed them at times.

    As for your son, I am moved at how he impacted your life and many others around him – even me. I haven’t lost a child, but I had a little brother die at 8 and my younger sister lost a baby son at 7 months. I nearly lost my younger son, Mark, when he was born 7 1/2 weeks prematurely and I’ve learned so many deep spiritual lessons from all those things.

    My husband lost his young adult daughter completely unexpectedly and tragically a little over 2 years ago and not having the deep faith I have, has grieved terribly. I really need to read your book on that because many people said the very things you urge people not to say to anyone who is grieving. This has been a very difficult thing for me to try to deal with with him, except by reading passages from God’s word I’ve been led to in trying to ease his pain.

    So, I appreciate all you had to say here today in your post and want to thank you. I may email you sometime to ask you things that might help me in helping Tom with his grief and to lead him closer to God.

    Have a blessed day. I – like you – think of “being around the table” as being home with all those I love who are no longer here physically with me.

  4.   TCS Says:

    “I went to my office and poured my heart before [God]. Why was my son born with this condition? Why are others permitted to inflict pain upon the innocent? Somewhere in the middle of that complaint, in the middle of the lament, I became intensely aware that my complaint had been heard?. It was as if God said to me, ‘I understand?they treated my Son that way, too.’ In that moment God provided a comfort that I cannot yet explain but one that I still experience in my heart.”
    Tears falling like rain.

    Thanks for helping us. I look forward to reading more. We have several loose connections but I will save that for later.

  5.   JD Says:

    I remember Joshua. Bright and happy. And that’s all I really can say right onw, as I am deeply moved by your words.

  6.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    JD — John, my brother….thanks for remembering with me. It touches me that you remember.

    Dee, your story is filled with hurt, and so we share an empathetic journey together…indeed, a journey we share with all humans if we would all open up a bit and tell the stories. Pain and hurt are best comforted when they are expressed…to God, to each other, to community…and to ourselves. Thank you for sharing.

    TCS, look forward to know what those connections are! :-)

  7.   Dee O'Neil Andrews Says:

    John Mark -

    You’re absolutely right – “Pain and hurt are best comforted when they are expressed…to God, to each other, to community…and to ourselves.”

    I try very hard, and have for a long time, to live a “real” life before everyone around me. Thanks for living the same way and making it easier.

  8.   Matt Elliott Says:

    John Mark,

    I remember Joshua as a very small boy when I saw you all regularly, and I grieved with you from a distance when I heard about his condition and then about his passing. I can’t imagine what all you have been through, but I’m so thankful that you’ve chosen to share your grief. The redemptive power in sharing with a community serves and benefits EVERYBODY — the one grieving as well as those who listen and share in your sufferings.

    Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog. I had no idea you were “online” now. I’ve linked you on my site, too.

    yours ~

  9.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Matt, your memory of Joshua is precious to me, as is others who have communicated with me over the past few days. Thanks.

  10.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    JD told me that perhaps my blogging is the best thing to come out of the “A Christian Affirmation.” Amazing, huh, how God can take “junk” (“evil,” “good intentions,”…whatever) and make something productive out of it or at least through it. :-)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. God and Evil: Can God Be Justified? « John Mark Hicks Ministries
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  3. Remembering Joshua: Life is Hebel | John Mark Hicks Ministries

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