Linda Higgs first appears in my memory when I was a child. Among those first vivid memories is that of her sharing a testimony at our small rural Pentecostal church. Testimonies were short reports of God’s goodness, blessing, or faithfulness designed to encourage others, and they were a staple of the Pentecostal worship service. Congregants were invited to share these testimonies, usually as directed by the Pastor, and the content often featured memorized biblical passages with insider language that referenced mundane events where those sharing saw miraculous and welcomed interruptions. But Linda was one of the first people in our church that I remember sharing about a book that she was reading, other than the Bible, during her testimony.
The book that I remember her referencing was The Day Christ Died by Jim Bishop. The book was first published in 1957 and details the last twenty-four hours of the life of Jesus. I don’t remember the details of what Linda had to say, but I do remember the emotion with which she shared her love of Jesus. As a kid in that moment, Linda was perhaps among the first to help me understand that the faith that we practiced in our Pentecostal church was connected to a much larger tradition of believers around the world. Believers, who did things differently than us but shared the same kind of passion we exhibited, albeit in different ways and expressions –and they wrote about it. I’m sure that there were others in our church that were reading books, but Linda was talking about them and sharing what she learned. I like to think this planted a seed of curiosity in my heart that continues to flourish.
To all of us who knew Linda, this passion for her Lord was evident in all that she said. Her love for Jesus radiated her countenance. Linda loved to worship Jesus in song and in deed. I lose count if I attempt to inventory all the moments that Linda shared an encouraging word with me or a member of my family. She was always among the first to give a warm hug and kind smile. I’m sure that she, like all of us, had moments of difficulty and discouragement, but I don’t remember her ever sharing those thoughts or words with me. I do remember her always saying, “You know Scot, the Lord’s got this!” She always managed to see the positive and to accentuate the good nature and intentions of the God we worshiped. This is my memory of Linda, and what permeates my mind when I think about her.
Another snippet of my childhood memory of Linda, includes a conversation that I overheard. My cousin Jason had a swimming pool, and every summer Jason would have many of us over to swim. I distinctly remember being within earshot of Linda as she was having a conversation with her sister Carol. Like most adults, I am sure that they were oblivious to us kids frolicking in the water nearby, but their conversation caught my attention as they were talking about loftier concepts of God, religion, and church. I don’t remember a lot of the details of their conversation, but I do remember that Linda was asking some good questions about how faith is expressed daily. Linda was one of the first adults that I remember asking questions, deep and thoughtful questions about God. This inspires me to this day. The God that Linda embraced isn’t a God fearful of our inquiries. He isn’t defensive or insecure but welcomes our deepest questions and our fiercest doubts. The God that Linda worshiped doesn’t hide from even the harshest critiques of those who would question His very existence but stands ready to reveal Himself to all those open to listen. I’m glad Linda asked questions. This didn’t dimmish her faith but only served to make it stronger.
Lots of us have quite a few questions for God. When I contemplate the tragic nature of the accident that took Linda’s life, and that of her husband, Harry, just a few weeks earlier, I have questions. Harry and Linda were on their way back from celebrating their wedding anniversary, a renewed love in the golden years of their life, when a reckless, and by initial reports, an intoxicated driver crossed the line crashing into their car. Harry, ever the protector swerved to avoid the oncoming vehicle, perhaps to save Linda’s life. Linda later reported to her family that she remembered Harry’s last words to be her name. After a series of surgeries, Linda’s body succumbed to her injuries. I have no doubt, that she felt a strong desire to be by the side of Harry on the other side in glory. Yes, I have some questions for God.
Linda’s death comes on the heels of a difficult season for our family and extended family. By my count, we’ve lost five family members in the past month including my dad and a beloved young cousin, April, who also lost her life in a tragic auto accident. Yes, I have some questions for God.
Sometimes God answers questions, sometimes He doesn’t. Many times, He will answer through Scripture with words of comfort, but most often He answers in the words and actions of others. God answers in the faces of our loved ones. God answers in the nearness of family in times of adversity, or in a small gesture of kindness from a friend.
God answers me when my kind cousin, Melinda, Linda’s daughter, simply responds to a message of condolence, “I love you, Scot!”
God doesn’t always give us the answers we want, but I am convinced He gives the answers we need. He gives us Himself through the expressions of love and actions of those close to us.
Linda lived a wonderful life of faith and love. She leaves a legacy of family that continue to shine with her beauty through and through. Thank you, God, for these living answers testifying to your everlasting love.
I can still hear Linda’s powerful alto voice passionately sing “Ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down!”
Until I hear your encouraging voice again, beloved Linda.