I once knew a beautiful woman. She was a leader- smart, confident, wise, and strong. She could be scary, too. She could be funny. She poured into me. Then, she got sick. And I watched her waste away. Then, when I was not fully old enough to understand, I had to say good bye. She was my Grandmother. Her name was Ethel Mae Harris.
I once knew a dynamically powerful man. He was also gentle, thoughtful, and compassionate. Filled with a faith in his God and love for his church. When the same sickness came upon him, he shared it with us. Shortly after, he had an experience and believed that he’d be supernaturally healed. We believed with him. I went forward in that belief, and… in the end, I didn’t get to say good bye. He was my pastor. His name was Rae Kidder.
I once met this incredibly precious boy. He too became sick. It was many years ago, but I remember there was talk that maybe, I could help him. I was far too young to understand how I could, or why it never came to pass. But in the end… I didn’t get to say good bye to him either. He was my baby brother. His name was Marlin Xavier Exton.
I know that many who might read this, have equally profound encounters with death. It’s a subject incredibly hard to broach. And as I think about the tragedies in Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, from Irma, along with many others who today may be in mourning, or shock, or sadness, it’s all so… Overwhelming. Horrifying. Suffocating.
I had some tough thoughts- maybe you did as well…
I wonder what can be done in the face of death? A reality that’s inevitable, inescapable, ubiquitous, “callous,” and unpredictable? Does talking help? Does praying help? What about in situations where death “could have” been prevented? What then?
I wonder about prayer… does God answer prayer? So many leaders prayed, so many congregations, so many people in their homes, online, over the airways, and over the phones, prayed… after Sandy Hook. Wasn’t that supposed to stop acts like these? Yes? Then why did this happen? No? Then why pray at all?
I wonder about meaning… is there any? To this? Is there a point to seeking out meaning? Is there anything to learn from this? WILL WE LEARN ANYTHING?
I wonder about Sovereignty? Is God all-powerful? Yes? Then, is He benevolent? If not, then what hope is there? Is He omni-present? So, was He there? Is He omniscient? Then, did He know? What does that mean?
Did you know that in 2015, 2.7 million people died in the United States alone? That number is staggering. That number robs me of proactive and focused thought. I don’t know what to think in the face of such a number, and it grows exponentially when you consider the entire world. It feels TOO LARGE. My mind is scattered. But even in the face of that, I can’t shake the impulse that death needs to be confronted somehow.
Sorry, no answers, just questions,
Death is not our friend. Death cannot be avoided, but just because we will all die, doesn’t mean we should not look for ways to make death HARD sought. You may think this is obvious, but don’t kill your neighbor, or your blood. Don’t kill their bodies, but also don’t kill their spirits, don’t kill their dreams, don’t kill their hopes. Don’t kill them with your words, your actions, your judgments, your scorn, your hate, or your indifference. You see, there are many ways to bring death. Live your life with the commitment to never be its tool.
To all who’ve lost someone you love- my heart breaks for you. I don’t know you, but I would see you comforted. I would see your loved one returned to you if it was in my power. I would take a sword to death itself. And if we have spirits, I would want mine to give you strength. I wouldn’t presume to grieve with you, as if our loss is in any comparable. I would only say that I think of you.
Who is ‘you?’ ‘You’ would hopefully be everyone when a loss so great occurs. We all share this world, and we are not as different as we believe. Life is precious- and so, as much as you can, cradle, nurture, and love life, here. Bring life into people. Breathe life. Speak life. Actively pour into people whenever, however you are able with this life.
If you haven’t been poured into, please take this- I love you. You are an unique, valuable, irreplaceable addition to this world. You are needed, and you can bring so much good, and joy, and love, and hope. You’re creative, strong, smart, funny, witty, sympathetic, compassionate, decisive, inventive, and transcendent beyond my words. You have so much untapped within you. You are part sun, and moon, and stars. You are celestial, elemental, “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
That’s what I have… but here-
May this little life pour into yours, so we can go together and stand against the overwhelming force.