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In his book, The Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight shares the moving story of Margaret Ault. When Margaret was just about to complete her Ph.D. at Duke, something unexpected -- but quite welcomed -- happened: she fell in love. She went on a date with a man named Hyung Goo Kim, and the proverbial sparks flew. But almost as quickly as the sparks became a fire, they were doused with water. Hyung Goo informed Margaret that he was HIV positive. Needless to say, Margaret was devastated. In her own words, "I'd just met someone I liked, and we were definitely not going to live happily ever after. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut by the biggest boot in the world."

Still, she and Hyung Goo were married. In his book McKnight asks the question many of us would ask: "Why would anyone invite into the core of their being so much pain?" He then goes on to share that the answer unfolds in the rest of Margaret and Hyung Goo's story. He writes:

"When Margaret was in graduate school at Duke, she and Hyung Goo loved to walk in the Duke gardens, and so knowledgeable did they become of its plants that they 'supervised construction' of a new project. They walked through each part of the garden routinely and had names for some of the ducks. In their last spring together, the garden seemed especially beautiful [to them]."

Hyung Goo died in the fall and Margaret returned to the gardens in the spring where a memorial garden of roses was being constructed in his honor. In her book, Sing Me to Heaven, Margaret reflects on the days she returned to the gardens. She writes:

"Where peonies were promised, there were only the dead stumps of last year's stalks; where day lilies were promised, there were unprepossessing tufts of foliage; where hostas were promised, there was nothing at all. And yet I know what lushness lay below the surface; those beds that were so brown and empty and, to the unknowing eye, so unpromising, would be full to bursting in a matter of months.

Then she asks, "Is the whole world like this? Is this what it might be like to live in expectation, real expectation, of the resurrection? Was not Hyung Goo's and my life together like this? Empty and sere, and yet a seedbed of fullness and life for both of us. He died, and I was widowed; yet in his dying, we both were made alive." (Scot McKnight, The Jesus Creed, Paraclete Press, 2005, pp. 286-288)

How did Margaret find such hope in the midst of her pain? Well, she refused to focus on the deadness around her. Instead, she focused on the promise of life.

You see, God's promises are like seeds planted in a "brown and empty" world. To the unbeliever, what seems so barren will one day be busting with life and beauty and joy. So don't give up on God, ever, even in the midst of your pain. Instead, Pray in faith, because you are forgiven. Persevere with hope, because God is faithful.

(From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Converted Church, 12/23/2010)

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