by Michell Porisch
I lost my place when Byron passed away on November 17, 2013. I became a widow.
There was an empty chair at our table and going home didn’t feel the same. Nothing was the same. Let me repeat that, Nothing was the same.
I remember a time a week or two after the funeral and Pastor Justin came over. I told him I never knew it would be this hard! Fear definitely entered in as I found myself in unknown territory. I am a planner and analyzer. I like to know what is coming up and all the possibilities surrounding it. In reality I guess that makes me a big worrier!
Byron lived on the opposite end of that spectrum. He grabbed the biggest and the best whatevers as they presented themselves on his path. He didn’t hesitate. I have lost the balance of his input and I get stuck in my thinking!
Fear definitely entered in as I found myself in unknown territory.
Jesus never leaves us. That’s one of the strong promises I cling to, even when I feel alone, even when I feel vulnerable as a widow, even when I feel I am stuck in something unexplainable and see no way out. Jesus never leaves us.
Jesus has placed people in my life who share his love, his hope and his promises. My 60th birthday was 1 month after Byron’s death. The St. Luke staff invited me to the monthly birthday lunch. Janette gave me a daily devotion which has been a lifesaver! It is a small glimmer of light in my darkest days. I’m into my third year and my day isn’t complete if I don’t read promises from Jesus. It is what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s my time to be with Jesus.
Jesus never leaves us.
Recently I had the opportunity to go to Uganda with Women of the Pearl. Lynn persistently but gently presented this to me every few months over the last 2 years. Last summer I listened to the Holy Spirit’s nudging and told Lynn,”I think I am ready to go.” I wasn’t exactly sure why I was going but my sense was that I needed to share my story. Lynn jumped on that idea and that was that!
I traveled half way around the world and presented my story to women leaders of the Lutheran Church in Uganda! I shared moments in my life that were vivd memories and shaped who I am, moments that reminded me of God’s promises and His never ending care and love for me. It wasn’t an easy thing to do but I was covered in prayer and able to speak without blubbering the whole way through it. I titled one story: Pushing God Away-Sitting on a Rock.
Pushing God Away-Sitting on a Rock
In my teens, I was a cheerleader. I loved doing this immensely! It gave me great pride and I was good at it. All my friends were also on the cheerleading squad. I had just finished a week of being with these friends for an entire week at cheerleading camp. Living together in a dormitory, practicing competing and performing against other teams-everything focused on cheerleading! It was amazing! We even won the coveted prize-the spirit stick! My heart still races with excitement remembering this!!
My friends all leave. The hundreds of others from across the state also leave. I did not leave, and my memory places me on a big rock – a thinking rock.
I had been prodded to go to the Minnesota Lutheran District Youth Gathering weekend. Hundreds of Lutheran teenagers from the state, and it just happened to be at the same place as my cheerleading camp.
So my friends all left, but I was staying. I didn’t want to stay. As I sat on the rock, the opening worship had already started and the singing was booming out from the windows. Young men and women praising God and singing, “Boy Do I Feel Great!” Those words stung my heart. I didn’t feel great, I didn’t want to stay, and let me tell you what feels great…cheerleading!
These were my thoughts in my 17 year old brain. But inside I was crumbling. My life was a mess. My dad was an alcoholic and we had lost our house to foreclosure. As a consequence of the drinking and money problems, my parents were fighting a lot. I have no recollection about the rest of the weekend at this gathering, but I am pretty sure I was miserable.
But that is not the end of this story! About 10 years ago I was at our Sunday morning Bible study. The question we were to answer and share with those at our table was: “Remember a time when you were pushing God away.” My thoughts immediately went to the rock 40 years in the past!
Those feelings rushed back into the present and I confessed it to my friend. We prayed and the good news was shared. She entered into that moment with me and revealed her vision. Jesus was standing with me. He was there, His comforting hand was on my shoulder. I will never forget that. What a comfort! Such encouragement! Jesus is with us even when we are pushing him away, even in our darkest moments in life!
Jesus never leaves us. That’s a promise that Jesus keeps speaking into my life, in many different ways, through many different experiences. Byron’s sister Pat is another person who has reminded me of God’s promises. She was so consistent in sending notes when Byron was sick and also in the year after he died.
But really I can go all the way back to when I was 19 and in college. She wrote a letter to encourage me and wrote out the whole chapter of Psalm 34. I cherish that letter. Many years ago Byron was teaching a group of teens and what I grabbed on to was this: it’s important to have a “home” in scripture. Over time Psalm 34 has really become my home. I am able to enter into the words and feel the peace that comes from entering home. “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”
…it’s important to have a “home” in scripture. Over time Psalm 34 has really become my home.
I lost my place when Byron passed away. But over these past years, I have experienced Jesus creating a place for me. I have heard Him speaking through people in worship and Bible class. I have seen Him at work in my story in Uganda. I have opened my home to small groups of women. I have been encouraged by family and friends.
God knows what we need and places these opportunities before us. I am so glad He does and so thankful for our pastors, friends and family who provide the encouragement, tools and opportunities to help us look at, receive, study, and apply God’s Word to our lives.
We all lose our places. Whether it is through the natural progression of life and growing into adulthood or because of death or even circumstances caused by our own sin. It is a common denominator as a human being. I am so thankful that Jesus has not only prepared a final place for us in heaven, but that He also has a place for us right here and right now! Trust Him! He is able!
Byron Porisch served Jesus and His people faithfully for over 10 years, at St. Luke and beyond. You can revisit some of the impact Byron had on our faith community by visiting #WeLoveByron.
The theme of losing our place was central to our Ash Wednesday worship this year. You can find the related sermon here.