A blog about the life of the Balentine family: Adam, Amy, Teddy, Simon, Thomas, Peter and Goldie

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Speech for Simon



Today happens to be Father's Day, so it seems like a good occasion to post a transcript of the speech that I gave for Simon at his celebration of life just yesterday.  I am so proud to be the father of Theodore Boyd and Simon Adam.  What amazing work Simon was able to do for God.  I pray Teddy will be a great man of God one day as well.  The below is a long-form of my speech - including a few extra lines that I cut out once I delivered it during Simon's ceremony.  I hope these words honor my sons, but also my father, my grandfathers and my Heavenly Father.

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Standing and speaking in front of you all today may have been scary for me prior to Simon.  A sense of boldness now intertwines itself to my core.  I’m thankful for that.


Amy also stands boldly on the truth of God’s grace and mercy.  Her love has changed from something I selfishly consumed when it pleased me, to something that sustains me and keeps me safe.  I’m thankful for that.



During this trial, Simon’s grandparents sweetened, likes grapes on a vine preparing for the harvest.  They were sources of strength and stability in an exhausting and confusing time.  I’m thankful for that.


Simon was born into our arms.  He spent most of his life in our arms.  And then Simon died in our arms.  He now rests in the arms of our Redeeming Savior.  I’m thankful for that.


Simon’s beautiful cleft mouth means that I will always easily see his face in the billowing clouds that pass overhead.  I’m so thankful for that.
When we first learned of Simon, I wrote a message to close friends that mentioned that Amy and I made decisions to follow Christ many years ago (individually as children).  Since that decision that I made so many years ago, I have ignored God, then fervently read His scripture.  I have run away from Him as quickly and recklessly as possible, and then clung to Him after He found me face down in a ditch.  I have tried to turn him off with my sin - hoping that my scars would make me unrecognizable to Him - then He calls me by name and tells me He will always love me.  


I’ve been on a slow ascent in my faith for several years now.  I’m pursuing God’s truth more freely and confidently than I have in the past.  Sure, I make mistakes and I sin more than I care to admit.  But I now have this freedom - through being convicted that I will never measure up to God’s love for me.  I will always fall short of His glory.


Simon has been a major milestone on this journey with Christ.  Through Simon, I did not find Jesus Christ as if I were some bewildered Atheist in a foxhole.  My experience with Simon has galvanized my faith and solidified the trust I have Jesus Christ and His Gospel of Grace.


Perhaps no one has better promoted or explained the Gospel of Grace better than Brennan Manning.  In his book, the Ragamuffin Gospel, he writes,


“Grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift.  All that is good is ours - not by right - but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God.  While there is much we may have earned - our degree, our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite and a good night’s sleep.  All this is possible only because we have been given so much.  Life itself.  Eyes to see and hands to touch.  A mind to shape ideas and a heart to beat with love.  We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh.  We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt.  This, and so much more is sheer gift.  It is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition or our heroic life of prayer.  Even our fidelity is a gift.  My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ, and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”


Truly, the 7 days and 22 minutes with Simon were a gift from God.  We didn’t deserve that time with our little boy.  We also didn’t ask for it.  Each morning we awoke to find Simon still breathing, it felt to us like Christmas morning feels for a 5 year old.  Despite awaking to foggy eyes, aching backs and fatigued minds, we knew that the time we were given with Simon was audaciously gifted so we rejoiced, albeit anxiously.  


This gift, this grace that Simon brought into our lives helps us now see that, truly, all is gift.  Since Simon, our marriage now feels like this incredibly demanding but abundantly rewarding investment.


Since Simon, the sunlight washing through the windows in our home seems to beg for joy.  


Since Simon, Teddy’s diapers have smelled sweeter.  Just kidding.  That kid needs to get potty trained STAT.  


Since Simon, playing with Teddy seems like a privilege more than a chore.  Teddy’s eyes somehow how look bluer.  His demeanor seems more loving.  The pictures of Teddy giving Simon hugs and kisses are like treasures that we store in our heart.  And now I rock Teddy longer at night.  I study his face to memorize it.  I cherish his hugs and kisses.


Since Simon, I was able to feel God’s abiding grace in the depths of thought and sorrow.  There in the depths I was stripped of my ego so I could clearly see God’s audacious, even vulgar, love for me.  This love made real through the God-man Jesus Christ, is not something I avoid bringing up in conversation anymore.  Even if talking about Jesus to a friend makes them look at me like I just told them that I ride a unicorn to work.


Since Simon, death is not something I fear, and heaven is something I long for rather than avoid thinking about.


Since Simon, study of the Bible and books from Christian authors like C.S. Lewis, Brennan Manning and Timothy Keller has helped me better understand the difference between information and wisdom, happiness and joy, honesty and vulnerability, and religion and faith.


My prayers have changed, since Simon. Viewing God as a loving Father, I now speak to Him as His admiring and aspiring son.  I come to Him with gratitude and regret.  I come to Him with tears of sorrow and of joy.  I come to Him angry, filthy and defeated.  I come to Him in victory.  The point is that I come to Him, and that I bring every bit of me because he wants it all, he takes it all and then demands more.  I still pray for miracles and an end to suffering but now I pray for them like Jesus did when He said, “Father, if it is your will please take this cup of suffering away from me. But it is not my will, but yours that shall be done.”  


Since Simon, Amy’s smiles look angelic.  Her words sound poetic.  Her touch sustains me as it comforts.  And her tears come on like an itch, but that’s OK.  Amy speaks of me as a leader, but I wonder if she knows how much she led me through this journey with Simon.  Her courage amazed us all - I think it amazed even her to some degree.  But her courage and her strength came from surrender.  This surrender is surrender to God’s plan.  It is surrender to hope.  Hope of something beyond death.  Hope in the promise of a new heaven and a new earth despite the brokenness of this world that causes us so much pain.  And hope in God’s grace - a grace that loves not only despite, but during, our own brokenness.  I’m so very thankful for her.  I praise God for the gift that she is, not just to me, but to everyone that she reaches. I love you, Amy.


There seems to be generally two categories of people that I’ve talked to surrounding Simon’s life, death and message of God’s unending grace to us all.  There are those that have been deeply affected by Simon’s story, and those who perhaps admired our steadfastness from a comfortable distance but didn’t go much deeper than that.  


To those who have been deeply moved and inspired, I remind you: inspiration is only inspiration if it pulls you, unwaveringly, from desire to action.  You can’t be inspired to stay the same and think the same way.  You can’t be inspired to do nothing.  To those deeply moved, I invite you to let the Gospel of Grace further refine you.  Seek understanding of Jesus as the vinedresser, or the pruner of fruitless vines in your life.  Trim away your fear of surrender.  Cut away the angst you have about people finding out you are a Christian.  Talk to your spouse about God.  Let go of the anger you have toward the church, or toward a family member or a friend.  Don’t let these be road blocks that keep you from pursuing Christ - or better - don’t let these be blinders that prevent you from seeing His relentless pursuit of you.  Embrace this calling, whether it’s your first or second calling, and be laser focused on His grace so that this feeling you have right now can be sustained.


To those who may be here who admire Simon’s story and our family, but don’t see eye to eye with us on the whole Jesus thing: we are so grateful you are here.  Know that our belief, and the belief of this church, is that you are eternally the objects of Christ’s love and grace, whether or not you have yet embraced a longing for God – the way that He longs for you.  


There may even be people here who share my story, and are ignoring, avoiding - even running from God.  Is it mere coincidence that you are here today?  You are all here by choice, after all.  I invite you to go deep today.  When you leave today, continue to explore what brought you here.  Even ask God to reveal it to you.  You have nothing to lose, but you potentially have eternity to gain.


Thank you all so much for being here today.  Thank you for your tears.  Thank you for your words.  And thank you for your prayers.

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