In Honor of Bronner

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed."
Psalm 34:18

Every January, I typically repost a blog that I wrote in honor of Bronner Burgess. This January would've been no different… if only I’d had the time. Being a full-time working mommy has greatly reduced the amount of time that I can do anything other than what that title encompasses: working and mommying. Each night when I tuck my kids in, I routinely cup their little faces in my hands and say, “just let me look at your face”. I try to snap a mental polaroid of their expression, their giant brown eyes and sweet little noses and still-rounded cheeks. Even though I lament that they are growing too fast, I cherish that they are growing, that I have the amazing privilege of watching them grow and that God somehow found me worthy of entrusting me with these precious gifts.

All that to say, the life and death of Bronner Burgess is never far from my heart, even on the days and months when it is far from my mind. The Lord used it in such a way that it became a catalyst of spiritual markers on my path through life, ultimately leading me to surrender my life to the Lord. As years have passed, the memory of that marker has become woven into the fabric of my life. A thread, like so many of the others, that God is carefully knitting together to create something that is beyond what my earthly eyes can see. I see the backside of my tapestry and frankly, it just looks like a hot tangled mess to me…

I work in an office building in close proximity to the Rick & Bubba studio. From time to time, I see them walking through the little plaza of restaurants during lunch. Last Thursday, I ran over to one of said restaurants in the middle of the afternoon to refill my giant mug of diet barg’s root beer and when I left through the side door, I literally ran right into them. Before my brain had time to tell my mouth to speak, my heart had already given the instruction. I heard myself say, “Rick, I’ve never had the opportunity to speak to you in person, but I just want you to know that my relationship with the Lord would not be what it is today if it weren’t for the words that He spoke through you at Bronner’s memorial service. I have a little boy who was close in age to Bronner and that is one of the things God used to break my heart and draw me to Him.” Tears were brimming my eyes and theirs. He thanked me and assured me what encouragement it was for his heart to hear those words.

I walked away, head finally catching up with heart, I thank God for the opportunity to share that. I was instantly reminded of how he directs our path and ordains our steps, every single one. It wasn’t until the next morning that I was reminded about my post about sweet Bronner. The one that I repost every year. Every January. Wait. Had I missed it? What day was it? Today was the 20th, yesterday was the 19th… I’m talking out loud, searching my blog on my phone when I read the date: January 19th, 2008. The day before, the day that I had completely randomly ran into Rick Burgess and blurted out those words to him, had been the anniversary of Bronner’s death and I’d had no idea…

as David Platt has so often reminded us: He has this whole thing rigged. And I, am in humbled awe of His provision and His sovereignty.

january 2011: i wrote the following entry in january of 2009. prior to surrendering my life to christ. prior to my baptism and public profession of faith that would come later that same year. the tragic death of a baby boy that i never even knew became a defining moment that God used to shatter my heart of stone and bring me to His arms. three years later, i remain in bewildered awe of how the Lord continues to use bronner's precious little life and tragic death to bring glory [and hardened hearts] unto Himself.

january 19, 2009: today is the one year anniversary of the tragic drowning death of bronner burgess. i, of course, never met bronner. admittedly, i am also not - and never had been - an avid rick and bubba listener or fan of their radio show. nonetheless, the death of bronner was and is deeply personal for me, having sparked the beginning of what would become a much deeper [although no less rocky] walk with the Lord.

my sweet parker and bronner were just a few months apart in age. at the time, i had been living alone and consequently, suffering from panic attacks for well over a year. i was also having the same horrific, recurring nightmare in which one, or sometimes both, of my children were drowning and i was always completely helpless to save them. i was sitting at the kitchen table that afternoon, perusing the news on when i saw the headline.

the news of bronner’s death shook me to the core and it made me examine my own life and my own faith or rather, lack thereof. i found myself asking all of the questions that, in our humanness, naturally follow tragedy. questions like: why God would allow it; how his parents, especially his mother Sherri, would survive it; how would they go on with their lives, etc. it is the questions we all ask when sharing in the silent grief of an unspeakable loss.little did I know at the time that all of these questions would be answered through bronner’s very own father at a public memorial service that was broadcast on their show later that week.

rick burgess stood, less than three days after his baby boy had tragically drowned, and the words that flowed from his mouth were [and still are] undeniably supernatural. i have been in (and sometimes, out) of church services most of my life. i have attended a plethora of “conferences” and “retreats”, read countless books, participated in various bible studies and nothing, absolutely nothing, even comes close.

i accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and savior as a teenager. i was 15. i had walked the aisle, prayed the prayer, joined the local church - but for the 16 years following, i had tried and failed more times than i can count to "get it right" or to "get my life right" with God. there was an ambiguous disconnect between knowledge of Christ in my head and love for Christ in my heart. my wake up call came through the tragic death of this precious toddler that I never even knew.

the words that God spoke through the faith of William Bronner Burgess’ father, Rick, spoke to my heart like nothing else i have ever heard and in those moments, i could literally feel the gap between my head and my heart being bridged, forever altering my relationship with Christ. the tears were coming so hard and so fast, i was standing in my bathroom, holding my hair back, letting my tears pour out into the sink.

sixteen years of trying [and failing] to change myself... and then, i understood. it was never something i could have done on my own.

i would like to blog on about how perfectly i have walked in my faith since that day and consequently, how perfect my life has been. unfortunately, that is not the case. nor should it have been my expectation. modern day prosperity gospel aside, scripture is clear that, " this world you will have trouble..." (both self-inflicted and not) but take heart, for there is One who has overcome the world.

the apostle Paul wrote about the hypocritical Pharisees being “whitewashed tombs” which were beautiful on the outside, but filled decay on the inside. for so long, i had been a whitewashed tomb, clothed in some self-righteous form of religion and an array of materialism; clinging to worldly possessions, worldly behavior and a heart full of judgmental criticism. it was a heart that my own rebellion had left hardened. and it was a heart that the death of this child would leave broken, allowing God to move in.

if you have never heard the message from bronner's memorial, you can find it here: Bronner Burgess Memorial.

regardless of where you stand in your own personal beliefs, this message of hope is for everyone and if nothing else, answers the curiosity that lies in all of our human hearts about life, death and unspeakable loss... and One Great Love.


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