Wednesday, March 12, 2008

length of days, forever and ever...

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability.... To be alive is to be vulnerable.
~ Madeline L'engle

I don’t deal well with death or sickness.

I am starting to think that this is because I do not fully appreciate life, both abundant life here and eternal life beyond.

I get that God is sovereign. I get that He knows what’s best for my life. I get that I will live eternally with Him. I get that when someone deals with sickness, God comforts them. I get that when someone dies and has surrendered their life to God’s glory, that they have the promise of eternity. I am not confused or concerned about that.

What I don’t seem to get is how in Him we live and move and have our being. Tonight in our Bible Study we are supposed to be sharing about What Makes Me Fully Alive, so my focus all week has been on life. What drives me? What desires has God placed in my heart? What have I been gifted with? What am I pursuing?

As I reflect on life, my thoughts turn to death.

I went through a list of questions about “purpose”, and was asked to think about who I admired and who had an impact on my life and what qualities that person possessed. I thought about my mentor from high school, who passed away last January. I knew her life was cut short, but I also knew it had been full and had impacted so many people. I read her obituary and saw so much of my hearts cry for my own life reflected in the words about her, and I saw that I had fallen short of the model she had set for me. Her life, and her death, both inspired and convicted me. It cast a long shadow over the past year of my life.

Not long before that, I had to face my grandmother’s death, and both the joy and pain that my mother experienced as she and her sisters walked with their mom through her last weeks. Due to divorces and remarriages, I have a multitude of grandparents, and there is a disconnect between me and each of them. More recently, I have watched my mother and stepfather walk through illness with his father, and I am at a loss for how to be there in that moment with them.

Just this week, I have had to confront death again.

On Monday, I received an email from a friend serving among nomads in Tibet. There is a crisis-level snow storm affecting the region – starvation, frostbite leading to loss of limbs, homes collapsing, snow blindness, desperation. In the disaster-stricken prefectures, 130,000 people have run out of fuel, 350,000 people in need of food and 110,000 others short of warm clothes or quilts, said the provincial government.

On Tuesday, the great uncle of one of my dear friends from college passed away. Naturally, this would not seem very significant to me – such a distant relation. But as she explained beautifully, Uncle J.B. had no children of his own so my family adopted him as a third grandfather… I realize that most people aren't close with such extended family, but we always had my great aunts and uncles around. Now that J.B. has passed, it leaves only my grandmother out of five brothers and sisters. I pray that my brothers and I will remain close so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy such a blessed heritage as we had!

Last night, Eric’s mother-in-law Brenda left this world to join with her Father. I had not allowed myself to become much a part of Brenda’s life, though it was not because the invitation was not extended. Brenda was an excellent example of community in the Body of Christ. She welcomed people into her home and provided sincere conversation. She exuded hope and joy. Sharing her home with her daughter, son-in-law and grandson, she also served as extended family for the women over at Haggai House. The relationship Brenda had with her daughter Staci was unmatched, and the love, strength and faith that she poured into her was not in vain.

The end came much faster than any of us expected. She had made a decision on Monday not to take any more chemotherapy. We had to take her to the emergency room yesterday morning because she was in a lot of pain and she had shortness of breath. She told us that she was ready and that she did not want to be on life support. We honored her request.

We gathered around her last night and told her how much we loved her. We sang one of her favorite hymns:

When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory.

As we finished singing, she took her last breath and began to shout the victory!

Reading this description reminded me, again, of the story of Debbie’s (my mentor) release of her battle with cancer. We were told at her funeral that family had gathered around her to sing with her I’ll Fly Away, at her request. As the hymn ended, so did Debbie’s time here on earth with us. As their pastor began to pray, her husband stopped him and said that he would like to give the prayer for his wife.

I am determined that such strength comes only from a person who fully understands the significance of life.

The God of the Universe saw fit to breathe life into our bones, to sacrifice His son, while we were yet sinners, so that we could experience fullness of life in Him.

I want to understand the significance of my life, and I want to honor the importance of the lives of others. I want to experience what it means for me to live surrendered to the Spirit for such a time as this. I want to pursue a life where Christ is everything, and where He is enough.

John 10:9-11 I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep.


Kimberly said...

If anyone actually read through all of that, I felt compelled to add to it. Over lunch, I realized I had completely overlooked the connection of my former step-mother's sudden death last week. Perhaps because my mind is still wrapping around it. Due to the snow, I was not able to accompany my father to her funeral Saturday morning. Her obituary didn't run until Saturday, and my mom called me as soon as she saw it. I filled her in on the details, explaining that it was a flu or pneumonia exacberated by respiratory problems due to smoking. I then gave my mother her semi-annual "stop smoking" lecture, to which she replied: "or, don't catch the flu!"

Ladies and Gentlemen, my mom!

Eric said...

Thank you sister...

Ines said...

i think you're not done with these thoughts....i wanted to keep reading! ;-) AND by the way, last night i neglected to say that you are my writing hero- I want to be like you! :-)

Bonnie said...

Reflecting on life often brings our thoughts to death. This weekend as I listened to all the things people had to say about JB, I couldn't help but wonder what could be said of me? God gives us so much in the life, and I want to do so much in His service, but I forget because I get so busy "living"....