God's mercy sometimes comes in unexpected ways week of January 5, 2012

-A A +A
By Bill Horner

  God’s mercy sometimes comes in unexpected ways


            “ Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

            According to Luke’s Gospel account, when the baby Jesus was eight days old, Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem for dedication. A man named Simeon was present in the temple that day. All we know about Simeon is that he was “just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”

 We suspect he was elderly because the Bible notes that the Lord had revealed that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah with his own eyes. As they brought the Christ child into the temple, Simeon recognized Him and broke into the blessing noted above.

            My great-grandmother might have been inclined to utter those same words years ago but from a different perspective. Christmas vacation of 1967/1968 was an eventful one in the Horner household in Knoxville due to the presence not only of my Dad’s mother, Mimi, but also of her mother. We saw Mimi frequently but rarely saw Grandma Foster as she lived in Florida.

            Grandma had had her share of hardships in life. As the mother of a young toddler, she divorced her husband and was left to raise the child on her own, unusual around the turn of the 20th century.  Her brother had gone out to South Dakota to homestead and urged her to do the same. 

So she did. 

With Mimi in tow, she made the trip, staked her claim, and with her own two hands built a one-room cabin. They lived on the claim for two years before selling and moving back east. She later remarried, but her second husband left her without even giving a forwarding address.

            Bitterness became a lifelong companion. While quite loving to some family members, she could be rather insensitive to others. For some reason she was never very fond of my mother or my college-aged brother Rick.

            Then it happened, that week in between Christmas and New Years. Grandma was sitting in her room in the rocking chair watching TV one minute. The next minute she was lying on the floor face down. She couldn’t breathe. She likely would have died if Rick hadn’t found her and lifted her face out of the carpet. There was no 911 option in 1967, so my cool-headed brother called the family pediatrician about our octogenarian grandparent. Dr. Byrd was quite helpful, and soon we had an ambulance out to carry Grandma to St. Mary’s hospital. She had suffered a stroke and would be hospitalized for two weeks before returning to our house and, later, to Florida.

            Her attitude toward Rick changed markedly. She was grateful that he had saved her life.  And she had a confession to make to my mother. Early in her visit to our house, she had discovered a silver table knife that had once belonged to her but had somehow ended up in our kitchen drawer. Upset with my mother for having it, she had taken it secretly and hidden it in her suitcase. “Is God punishing me for stealing that knife?” she asked Mom after the stroke.  Mom had attempted to talk to her about the Lord on numerous occasions. “No, Grandma,” Mom assured her. “God doesn’t work that way, and I don’t mind you having that knife back.”

            Apparently her close call caused my great-grandmother to start thinking more seriously about eternal matters.  Within several months of traveling back to Florida and entering a nursing home, a preacher making regular rounds at that facility led her to saving faith in Jesus Christ.  She passed away less than two years after the stroke, but we were sure about her standing with her Creator and her eternal destiny.  With Simeon she could say, “Now let your servant depart in peace.”

            “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:27).