Phil Van Steenburgh

Dear ßethany,

Today marks one year, 365 days since we last were fellow travelers-sojourners in this “weary land.”

Such a long time has passed since October 18, 2001.

The sorrow, the pain and grief of your absence, they’ve lingered every day since last we talked. Memories-they have been a comfort and welcome companion, but also a cruel reminder that those keepsakes of my heart and mind remain confined forever to the past. We’ll never again sit and recollect those conversations, great times, times of harshest struggle. Even worse, until my final day, we won’t create another stupid joke, say hello or goodbye, orjust sit silently together (knowing all the while that even without words, we understand those things which need no oral explanation).

Such a short time since October 18, 2001.

Although it often feels like time has stood painfully still for the past year, it hasn’t. Especially for you, how wonderful this past year has been. The year has been 1,000, and the 1,000 years, just the blink of an eye. HEAVEN; right now, as I think and write, you are there! While I can only imagine it, you experience and live in perpetual contact with the unveiled glory of our Father, King, and Savior. Yes, for you, time means nothing except that in His presence now, it will never end.

ßut even for me, the year has been brief. One year ago, I saw in a very real way God’s perspective on time. “For our lives are but a vapor.” A vapor, a mist. But your life was not unnoticed, nor did it only have a slight touch on those around you. Your Father saw every waking and sleeping moment you had, and cherished each moment. He delighted in showing His abundant love and mercy through the example of your heart and actions. No, your life was not a mist, it was a downpour of the refreshing grace of God in my life.

From the rain of the love of Christ flowing from you, I grew. You were used to reveal to me the deepest searches of the sovereignty, faithfulness, and salvation of our Savior. That impact was not felt by just myself, but by hundreds in this world. Your life did not briefly touch us, and then leave like the morning dew. Your testimony landed on our hearts, and rested, took root, and pointed us ever forward to Christ Jesus.

Much has changed. Much will never be the same. But in the scope of eternity, that does not matter. You lived and passed as a child of God, participating in the ongoing work of the pursuit of the glory of God. I strive on behind you, strengthened by the reality that I have seen real faith, and I know that the God in which it rests is just as real. Yes, I am often sad, and yes, I often still cry in remembrance, but how can I ignore the truth that this is not my home either? Home is where you are, and where I will be. And so I smile knowing that with the saints (with Bethany, a saint), I will soon sit , singing “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.”

Soon, very soon, I will sit again with you…well, if you have saved me a seat. 🙂

Now, I tarry on…knowing and trusting that the joy of the Lord will be my strength. That’s not easy, but it is a promise that I can know is true. The need for the grace of God, and His restoring power, is so great. But the provision has been promised. Isaiah 40:31 tells me that I do not run the rest of the race alone–and I do not run it without a purpose. My Guide holds a lamp to my feet, and has prepared my way to heaven, and I wait with hope to see it revealed, in His time.

And so, with resolve from seeing His glory manifested in you, even until October 18, 2001, and through your testimony even to October 18, 2002, “I press on toward the mark of the high calling of God.” Thank you Bethany. Jim Eliot once wrote that he wanted to be a fork in the road of people’s life, that when they came in contact with him, they would either leave knowing the richness of Christ’s love, or knowing that they didn’t own what Jim Eliot possessed in Christ. You were that fork, and you walked by my side as a sister in Christ, pointing me toward the cross.

Heaven–soon, I will call it MY home. But until then, may the glory of God be excelled in and through my life, and on this earth.

Remembering a girl whose life is past, but whose testament still remains in my heart, and in the hearts of countless people.

Phil Van Steenburgh -October 18, 2002