“Heaven gained a new point guard.”
I read the sentimental words on Facebook yesterday, and without any more context, I immediately felt my heart sink. Surely most, if not all of Cincinnati’s population, knows who Lauren Hill is. In fact, the nation now knows her. Lauren Hill, the sweet 19-year-old who defied the odds and inspired millions, passed away after a long battle with an inoperable brain tumor. The world is a truly better place because of her. She fought hard and never gave up, as was her motto, and now it is time for us to do the same while she enjoys the sweet rest in Christ’s arms that she so lovingly earned.
When I think about Lauren today, Paul’s famous words in Philippians 1:21 begin to resound in my heart like a beautiful melody. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
How did Lauren live Christ?
She radiated His strength every day, and she did it without fear or shame. This was abundantly clear in so many ways. She talked about her love for God and her desire to do His will in many interviews. She smiled and put others first in the midst of her own pain and suffering. The girl played college basketball with an inoperable tumor in her brain, and lived to April 10, when the doctors told her she wouldn’t see Christmas for crying out loud!
While all of these examples are visible snippets of her God-given strength, there was one more time in particular that really touched my heart. A local news station was filming Lauren at one of her basketball practices and recorded her sitting down, resting against her mother, clearly exhausted. As weeks went by, we saw Lauren begin to use a wheelchair, eventually being confined to it. We saw her rest her eyes and her head during interviews. We heard her sweet, gentle voice grow softer and softer, and we saw that beautiful smile turn to tears as she opened up about her inevitable fate. Little did we know that in these moments, we were watching sweet Lauren do something that many of us do not have the strength to do ourselves.
We saw Lauren rely on God’s strength.
Again, Paul whispers in my heart from 2 Corinthians 12:9. “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest in me.”
Even though this passage is dealing with Paul’s sin and temptation, I believe that it applies to all human weakness. Maybe it’s our pride, but there’s something that makes it really difficult for us to rely on God’s strength. Even more so to let others see us do it. Like, pulling teeth difficult.
We hide our sin instead of talking about it.
We hold back our tears and wipe them away before they fall.
We smile when we are really crying on the inside.
But Lauren, on the other hand, had the strength to let us all see her weakness, and through that, God’s immeasurable strength. He is offering you that same strength today.
Like a wheelchair, He is there to carry you when your body is tired. Like a parent, He is there for you to lean on when the pain and chaos of life makes your head spin. When your words and voices fail, He is there to speak on your behalf. When you do not have the strength or will to keep your eyes open, the Holy Spirit is right there to take you by the hand and guide you through what you cannot see. And finally, when it is your time, He will come get you and take you home. Not for even a single moment will you be separated from Him.
And Lauren was never separated from Him either. Although heavy, my heart feels so glad to know that Lauren has gained the Kingdom of Heaven! Though her body is now lifeless, Lauren Hill has never been more alive than she is right now; free from pain, free from suffering, and playing basketball with the angels in the presence of her King. My hope is that we will continue to learn what it means to live Christ the way Lauren did on earth, and that someday we too can gain the Kingdom of Heaven.
Rest in peace, Lauren Hill. Thank you for never giving up.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Håkan Dahlström
Latest posts by Stacey Whitaker (see all)
- My Head Under the Covers: Being Biracial in a Racially-charged Society - June 22, 2015
- Strength: A Tribute to Lauren Hill - April 12, 2015
- A Faith that Surrenders - March 12, 2015
- Stop the Glorification of Busyness - January 22, 2015
- A Survival Guide for Spring Semester - January 11, 2015