Gathering Together

          The Lineage of Courage

 

Meagan stumbled into the box-cluttered attic room, tripped across the hard wood floor, and landed in a heap against the back wall, sandwiched between two large cedar chests. Her shoulders shook with muffled sobs, while wet splotches quickly appeared on her denim jeans. Her heart constricted with painful disappointment.

Her life was never going to be the same now that her dad had been diagnosed with cancer. Instead of evening games of Monopoly and Friday night flicks, her family’s new schedule would consist of hospital trips and chemo treatments. And when Dad wasn’t at the hospital, he’d be lying around the house trying to get rested before the next round of treatments.

She slammed her head back against the wall. Life wasn’t fair! Why had God allowed her dad to get cancer? He was a good man and a strong Christian. He served as a deacon at their family’s church and taught an adult Bible study every Sunday morning. He was a great dad to his kids and a wonderful husband to his wife. And this was the thanks God gave him for all of his faithful service?

Angry tears cascaded down Meagan’s flushed cheeks, and she smashed her fist into the chest on her right. Was God really as faithful and loving as she had always been taught? This was unjust! She punched the chest again, this time harder. A muffled shattering noise immediately followed her action. Releasing a short growl, she cautiously lifted the lid.

Gazing down into the sparsely-filled trunk, she saw a broken vase still tottering on its side, glass shards scattered across a volume that looked to be centuries old. As she reached down to carefully clear away the broken pieces, the book’s worn appearance caught her attention, and she tenderly lifted the book from its resting place. Its yellowed pages were stained and tattered, and the cover that hinted a once-beautiful design, was falling apart.

Opening to the first page, Meagan was both surprised and delighted to discover that it was an old diary—very old, according to the date in the upper right hand corner. The writing was shaky, but still very neat, and a few stains of black ink blotted the paper.

Fascinated, she began to read.

 

 May 25, 1845

We left the valley early this morning, our tearful farewells having been said yesterday evening. My heart nearly broke as we left behind that familiar homestead, and I wondered if I shall ever see it again. I mourned the thought that last night might have been the last time I shall ever lay eyes upon Ma and Pa’s kind faces or hear their pleasant voices. Will they ever see their first grandchild which grows within my womb? (I have told none of the baby, not even my husband Alan; for fear that the news will complicate already-difficult things.)

Alan has gotten his way—we’re going west—but my own heart is broken.

Give me the strength to honor and love him as I should, God. Right now, I feel only bitterness.

—Jemima (Jaime) Drysdale

 

Meagan’s heart ached sympathetically as she read the woman’s narrative of the difficult journey westward and the struggles faced in making a new home, yet it was amazing how faithfully she trusted in God. A small amount of guilt pricked Meagan’s conscience.

The entries grew fewer and farther between after the birth of a daughter, Fiona Ruth Drysdale, and remained only to announce new additions to the growing family.

Turning another page, Meagan found that the book had evidently been passed down to Fiona, now a woman herself.

 

December 3, 1864

I almost feel ashamed of my Union loyalties as I stare down from my window at a long line of wagons heavily burdened with human cargo. It is bitterly cold out, and they have little protection. All of those good, innocent people—many whom I have known my entire life—now banished from their homes here in Missouri for the offense of being a Confederate sympathizer. They are being shipped down to Confederate lines where they will have no home, no friends…nothing. 

I wish that this cruel war would end and that Father would come home. There are so many dead, so many ravaged homes. Mother always tells me and the boys to take courage because God is in control of everything—even this wretched war—but my heart is troubled with many fears and doubts.

—Fiona Drysdale

 

God is in control of everything…

Was He really? If so, why did He allow wars to ever happen? Why did He allow people to get sick?

 

Reaching the close of the second group of entries, Meagan again encountered a new author, this time Fiona’s daughter. Toward the middle of the new life story, Meagan suddenly reached a tear-stained entry that made her stop.

 

May 7, 1903

How could God do this to me? How could He take away my only, beautiful daughter? He is not loving! He is not kind! He is unjust—treacherous! He could have kept Margaret from getting sick, yet He allowed her to suffer. He could have spared her life, but He allowed her to die! The thought that she is in heaven does little to console me.

Margaret was only three years old! She never had the chance to experience life and watch herself grow. I never got to help her read a book, teach her how to sew, or help plan her wedding. Can a God that jerks life away from a young child and steals the joy of a hopeful mother be a God of love? I do not believe it.  

—Aileen Jacobson

 

Meagan felt hot tears brimming in her eyes. This woman’s words and feelings paralleled her own. She felt the familiar bitterness, heard the raging fury.

Why? Why did God let the bad things in life happen? Could He really be trusted?

The next entry answered her question.

 

 

 

June 23, 1908

God is a faithful God, a God of mercy and love. He gave me the strength to move on in life, despite the fact that I blamed Him for all of my pain. He carried me in His arms even while I despised Him. He helped me to learn to be content, and then He blessed me with another daughter just to prove His love and faithfulness to me. Her name is Faith Jemima Jacobson.

—Aileen Jacobson

 

Tears poured down Meagan’s cheeks. Yes, God was who He said He was, but did she have the courage to cling to that? It was something she could not see, something she could not touch. Could she give Him her full trust?

 

December 29, 1941

Donald left this morning with his friend Tom to join the brave men fighting for our country’s freedom. With all of my heart I wished him to remain here with me and the children, but I could not make myself manipulate him to stay. He is ready and willing to fight for what he believes in—his family, his country, his God. He lives by honor and integrity. To take that away from him would be to kill the man I love and respect.

I do not know what may happen, but even should the worst come of this trial, I know that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ‘will never leave me nor forsake me.’

I place my husband’s life into my Father’s hands. Guard him with many legions of angels, O God. Shelter his heart from the horrors of war. Keep his body from harm. Preserve his life. Bring him safely home to me and the children.

But, in asking all this, may Your perfect will be done, O Lord. Give me a submissive, willing heart.

—Faith Aldridge

 

Meagan bowed her head as tears streamed down her cheeks. If this woman had the courage to give up her own husband, didn’t she also have the courage to submit to God’s plans for her own life? God would carry her through, as shown in the lives of the previous women.

Continuing in Faith’s story, Meagan discovered that the worst did indeed happen: Donald was killed and buried on the beaches of Normandy, France. But despite her loss, Faith never wavered in her trust in God. If anything, she relied on Him all the more.

Coming to the end of the line of stories after a couple entries from her grandmother, Meagan felt the high privilege of being a part of this lineage of godly women. Was she worthy of such an honor? God had done wondrous things in their lives, and now it seemed as if He’d presented her with a similar opportunity.

It was her choice…

Taking a pen from the bottom of the old cedar chest, a smile softened Meagan’s lips as she turned to the few blank pages toward the end of the diary.

 

October 7, 2001

I don’t always understand God’s plan for me, but I want to trust Him just as those before me did…