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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Charla

October 22nd, 2008

At the suggestion of my friend, website designer and all-around good guy Adrian, I recently joined Facebook. It’s been fun to reconnect with people that I’ve known from my years in Iowa, Arizona and now Texas.

One email came from VJ, a good friend with whom I was on staff at First Baptist Church-Tempe during my seminary days. VJ says, in part…  

“My dear sister Charla has joined the heavenly chorus as of August 29th of this year. Her body just began to fail in many different areas and God in his infinite grace brought her quickly to Himself. As family we had the reassurance that Charla was ready when she told us (in April) “I just want to see Lord Almighty!” We weren’t talking about her sickness or heaven or anything that would have prompted that thought. It has been a great comfort to us.”

Charla was developmentally disabled. She was also confined to a wheelchair, at least every time that I saw her. VJ would sometimes bring Charla to the church during office hours to spend some time while waiting to be picked up for adult day care. I remember her attitude as happy and joyful, a delightful person to be around. She would sit in her wheelchair and greet with a smile everyone who walked by.

What I remember about Charla was that she made me ask questions. Oh, none that I would voice out loud. Rather, silent introspective questions like, “Why her in that chair and not me? Why do I get the benefit of a reasonably sound mind and the opportunity to further my education while Charla will be forever stuck at this level? How is it that I can walk about, fully ambulatory, while she depends on others for transportation and daily care? How fair is it that she doesn’t have a say in changing her condition?”

Obviously there were no satisfactory answers. The questions would linger in my mind for a brief moment, pushed quickly aside by the tasks at hand.

In Matthew 20, Jesus tells the parable of the workers in the vineyard. The owner of the vineyard agrees to pay the workers he hires in the morning a day’s wages. He hires more workers in the third, sixth, ninth and eleventh hours, telling all of them he would pay them what is right. And they all agreed to work.

At the end of the day when they line up to collect their wages, the eleventh hour people are paid a full day’s wage. Those hired in the morning see that and think they will be paid more since they worked longer. But they are paid the same day’s wages, just as they had agreed to.

The point of the parable being, the owner of the vineyard has the right to be generous if he wants to. Jesus finishes the parable by saying, “So the last will be first and the first will be last.”

I’m not sure even the best Biblical scholar knows for certain the full meaning of that sentence. If you would ask me for my two cents, I think it includes people like Charla. Down here she didn’t have the benefits of good health, the opportunity to expand her knowledge, to mature in social relationships. Charla didn’t get to experience the joy of running full tilt down a green grassy hill on a spring day. She didn’t get the satisfaction of living independently, being able to say,“That’s OK, I can do it myself.” She didn’t experience the pride of accomplishment in earning a college degree, a promotion in her career or raising children.

Down here, Charla didn’t get to do a lot of things. Up there, I think it is a much different story for her. I have to believe that Charla discovered on August 29th that, in heaven, she is one of the “firsts”.

When I would see Charla in her wheelchair, sitting in the office at FBC-Tempe, I’d think of Jesus’ words about the “last being first”. And I’d wonder if, just maybe, I was looking at the person who might be my supervisor in heaven.

I guess someday I’ll find out.

If she is, I hope God is putting her in charge of the rose gardens.

Because that’s where I want to work.

Todd A. Thompson – www.ASliceOfLifeToGo.com