Death is Never Convenient

(Though I veered far off course of the actual blogging assignment today, I needed to write this. Further, I needed to publish it, because I cannot sit back silently any longer, hiding behind my lack of eloquence, while black is turned white and upside down becomes right side up. Others may write and speak much more succinctly, but I must add my voice.)

Supporters of the right to die law feel a terminally ill individual should have the right to determine the when and how of their final moment, thereby avoiding some of the pain and misery of waiting for a natural shutdown. Consideration for family and friends is also eschewed, reducing their time of struggle in watching and waiting for a loved one in the process of death, as well as reducing medical costs for longer care. This is referred to as dying with dignity, though assisted suicide is another term used.

Wait. Think about that phrase a moment – assisted suicide. Suicide is self-killing, self-murder. When the word assisted is included, there is now an accomplice to murder, if not the murderer himself. But assisted suicide sounds so much more acceptable. Someone is killing another person; albeit, with their permission and at their request (for now,) and legally in some states. Nevertheless, someone in the medical profession – a profession that is supposed to do no harm – is now intentionally killing another person.

Having agonized through the slow deaths of both my parents, I am not without understanding of the struggles involved. In the last days of my mother’s life I wanted her freed from the cancer ravaging her body – and me freed from the suffering of watching. Yet it was not up to her or me or the caring Hospice people to say, “Enough.”

Years later, my father’s dying process was much slower, much less convenient. In addition to some other pretty severe physical issues, we had years of the long goodbye, as Alzheimer’s Disease is frequently called. In the hardest of days, whether his or mine, I wanted his life, such as it had become, to be over. I didn’t want my father to suffer any more of the cruelty of this disease, ending up curled into the fetal position on his bed, unaware of anyone or anything. I also wanted to be free of the pain of seeing the decline day in and day out, as well as the responsibility for caring for him. Yet, even in those helpless and almost hopeless days, my prayer was always that his last moment not be even one breath too soon.

They were shells of their former selves by the time they took their final breath – my mother hardly recognizable because of cancer, and my father unable to communicate or discern his own family. Both, however, died with dignity, their care having been given in love and compassion, their pain having been eased without being overmedicated.

Regardless of what is allowed by government, humans were not given the right or responsibility to determine the date and time of death any more than the moment of creation and birth. Every day is given by God, and there is purpose in every breath given by God – every single breath – though we may not understand suffering that comes with it.

bright crossThe root problem stems from the Garden of Eden, when the serpent convinced Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so they could “be like God.” It’s the same story today. We still want to be the god of our life. Only the truth is, there is no one like God. Further, His plans are good and for the good of each one of us. And . . . He works everything together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. He has promised, Jesus Christ being the proof of His faithfulness.

We are not god, nor God. We don’t know enough, though we think we do, to determine our life and death. But that’s a good thing, for we can know the One Who does, and trust Him implicitly, even in our lack of understanding. Therein is peace. Therein is rest. Therein is freedom. Therein is life – real life.

Tribute to a Friend

My friend’s mother passed away yesterday unexpectedly.  The sadness I feel isn’t just for my friend and his family, but for me, too.  This woman was my friend, and I shall miss her.  Yet, moments after hearing the news, my thoughts were taken in a completely different direction.

I’ll be honest.  At first, I thought about how she’s seeing things about the Lord she wouldn’t believe while here, things some of us already knew and tried to tell her.  That arrogant train of thought was quickly destroyed when I realized she’s seeing it all so much more clearly than any of us ever will while on earth.  She understands the limitations of the doctrines she believed, as well as the limitations of the “greater” doctrines we espouse – and sees what the fullness of Truth really is.

Where earthly things are concerned, she sees now how much time was wasted on things of no value, while being shown the eternal impact some of her seemingly insignificant actions had.  I would love to get her perspective for my own life, even after only one heavenly day’s experience.  As a faithful choir member for decades, what notes can she hear that mortal ears can never perceive?  What amazing landscapes does she see now – with colors so crisp and vibrant, and far beyond our visible spectrum?  Then there is also her over-the-top delight in reuniting with friends and loved ones as they celebrate her homecoming.

As wonderful as all these are, they pale in comparison to seeing the face of her Creator, her Father, her Savior and Lord, her Jesus!  He is the One by Whom, for Whom, and through Whom she was made, and now my friend is experiencing Him in His fullness.  Today, you and I can only wonder about it, but one day we will also see Him as He is.

1 Corinthians 15:54-57 NIV

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  55 “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”  56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  57 But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Goodbye, my friend.  Thank you for helping me see more clearly – even from heaven.  I look forward to seeing you among my welcoming committee when I arrive.

Is It The End?

Mark 15:46  “So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”  NIV

As I meditated on this verse, I saw several things that helped me greatly, especially with what I was facing at that time.  When I read about what Joseph did, I realized he continued to respect and reverence Jesus, as well as giving to Him, even in His death.  This was despite the fact that everything he had hoped for and believed in concerning Jesus had just died, as far as he knew.  Picture it with me.  Joseph peacefully and methodically wrapped Jesus’ body in fine linen, and placed it in the new tomb he had purchased – after having brought it from Calvary.  This was the body, now dead, on which he had based his reason for hope and his reason for living.  Then he rolled a large stone against the opening.  He wasn’t going back in, but he also made sure others wouldn’t be able to go in either.  Who knows what they might do?  Joseph continued to respect Jesus in every way, even in what appeared to be the end.

What would he do now?  He was probably very confused.  We know what happened only three days later.  Three days later, so did he; but for those 3 days, he didn’t know.  Because of how he treated Jesus’ body upon His death, my assumption is that during this time, he only spoke of Jesus in terms of the wonderful things He did and said.  If he voiced his many questions, including what he was to do now, it was probably only to himself.  Underneath it all, he knew he could never be the same because of having known Jesus, even if he never understood what happened at His death.  Joseph made the decision that he would not go back to his old ways and pretend it never happened, pretend he never conversed with Jesus, never believed what He said was true.

Lest you think I’m making too much of this verse, the Lord directed me to it at a time when a ministry He had birthed through me five years earlier was in the final throes of ending – at His direction.  I chose to stay with it to the very end, giving my all to it as long as there was “breath” in it.  When it was finished, would I also choose to lovingly “wrap it up” and “secure it” so that no harm would come to it?  Would I walk away from it after it ended and forget all about it, forget about what I learned from it and how I was changed by it – not to mention the others who were touched and changed by it, as well?  Would I continue to trust the Lord to bring the vision to completion, even though this vehicle of ministry had come to its end?  Most importantly, just like Joseph, would I continue to trust God even when I didn’t know what I would do without this in my life?

The following, straight from my journal, is the answer that rose up in me and the declaration I recorded after considering these questions:  “Lord, I can’t / won’t go back.  I’ve been forever changed by You and Your work in my life.  You’ve done so much in me in the midst of this ministry.  So I will wait on You, Lord.  I may only have a day or 3 days.  But it may be 3 months or 3 years.  Lord, that’s hard to write, because my flesh screams that I must have some direction sooner than that.  But I’m just going to come back to trusting You when I can’t see.”

What about you?  What will you choose?  Consider the Amplified version of Proverbs 3:5-6.  “Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.  In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.”  He is fully trustworthy!