Experiencing the loss of parents, grandparents, and dear friends, along with recently losing a sibling earlier this year, I can relate to broken feelings. God also knows the pain that occurred during this time. The one thing anyone can ever do is try to prepare their hearts for these types of situations. However, no matter what steps we may take in preparation, it is never easy. One thing we can be certain of is, at some point we will all depart this life. I dare to think that any of us would be as fortunate as Enoch and Elijah, who was ascended up to heaven without having to die, though I believe it is possible. Matthew 24:36 states, “no one knows the day nor the hour, nor the angels or the son; none other than the father himself knows.”
Recently our church family lost a dear friend, a relative, an icon, and a legend to the city of Peoria. The hurt caused by this loss over-exerted my heart as it pumped faster than normal while I observed his parents and family members grieve the loss of their loved one and Manual High School’s most valuable player, Howard Nathan Jr. He was known as “Nate the great.” In 1991 the Illinois basketball coaches Association named Howard “Illinois Mr. basketball.” He was a key player of the Manual Rams and led their team to many victories. I recall the last time I saw him one Sunday morning as he made his way down the front aisle during altar call service. He spoke softly and briefly about his current situation, his disability, and how he has impacted the lives of many people around the world. During his speech, he mentioned that he could fill a room with his performance and appearance. It was noticeable then, that he never complained about his disability (being wheelchair dependent) or his illness, but seemed content in his well being. As church ended, I hurried out the door to catch up to him as he entered into his truck. I was able to exchange a hug and tell him that I love him, not knowing this would be the last time I would see him again. Thinking back on that day, and remembering his statement, just months before his passing; Howard did exactly what he said he was capable of doing. The church held people beyond its capacity at his home-going celebration. It was standing room only. The words of encouragement from his family, former coaches, and good friend Derrick Booth along with former basketball players of Manual High School were sincere and very heart-warming. What was more impressive though was that his parents, Howard Sr. and Sue Nathan warmed my heart the most. Just observing how they held their composure and remained humble, and yet faithful and grateful to God tells it all. It identifies with the fact that both of them have been “gracefully broken.” One may say, how can someone be broken gracefully? Does this mean that they are broken by choice? No, it is not by choice. It simply means during a hurtful situation, one surrenders everything, pouring out their whole heart to God based on their knowledge that their brokenness has a purpose.
God’s power is at work in you when you are weak, yet you become strong. Sometimes God breaks us only to rebuild us again. Though Mr. and Mrs. Nathan were hurt beyond measure in the loss of their beloved son, they remained faithful to the Lord. It reminds me of the story of Job who experienced great difficulty as it relates to his relationship with God involving human suffering. And, it encourages us to trust God’s wisdom and character during our time of brokenness. The scripture reads in Psalms 34:18 (KJV), The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.