I wrote yesterday about being ‘desperate’ for heaven. I think that might not make as much sense as I’d like if I don’t give a bit of an explanation about how my mom’s death has affected my life in the last 4 months. Most of you who will read this have been affected to some degree by her passing, as well, so know that I don’t seek to speak for anyone but myself, and please understand that I recognize we all process and grieve at different speeds. Sometimes, it is good to get into another person’s thoughts during that time (or so I’ve found), so here is your invitation to enter mine.
A statement that I heard a month before her death is a totally plain one, but one that became very poignant to me for obvious reasons. We all already know this, but if you haven’t really stopped to give it the depth of consideration that it deserves, you do yourself a disservice. The wise man said this: “Only one thing is going to prevent you from watching every person you know die from murder, accident, or disease and that will be your own death by murder, accident or disease.”
That strange thing that we all manage to do, where we forget that this breath really could be our last, and that as we breathe it, thousands of other people are breathing their last because of murder, accident or disease; Where we imagine that as we go about our business today, doing this or that, making plans for tomorrow and a year from now, we are somehow in control of the length of our days; That strange thing that we all do. Stop it for a moment.
Am I saying that we should mope around and fixate on our impending demise and the demise of everyone we’ve ever met? Not necessarily, but I am reminded of Paul, who wrote “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” You see, if all you have are human hopes, or if this momentary life is all you have to live for, then by all means, eat, drink, pillage and plunder, because whatever small pleasure you can derive from that is the last pleasure you will ever experience. Today or tomorrow you will be as dead as everyone who has ever come before you or will ever come after you.
If you have a heavenly hope, if you believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the one who broke the chains of death and sin for all who believe in Him, then you needn’t be weighed down by the incredibly heavy stuff I’m laying on you or the incredibly heavy stuff that was undoubtedly weighing you down long before you read this post. It isn’t too late to escape the meaninglessness of this life by gaining the meaning found in our great God and to escape the utter torment that will be an eternity spent knowing that you chose to reject the Living God. You can scoff. You can also be mistaken.
There are many things that have changed for me since my mom passed away and a lot of them aren’t unique. I miss her, of course. I cry at unexpected times. I also became aware of how little I deserve the salvation I’ve received in Jesus. This is no small realization. It’s a big part of the reason I decided to be baptized so long after the fact. If you’ve heard my testimony, you know I was wrenched out of sin through no merit of my own, and if you’ve known me long, you probably know that I am a person who has needed a lot of forgiving in her life. The things of this world become awfully dim when weighed against the astounding nature of God and eternity. I will give you an example of one such thing. Three days after my mom died, I realized that I could not go on holding her life over my uncle.
I knew that he shot her. I knew that he had had some part in it – conscious or unconscious – but to what degree? Can we possibly know? I knew that I had been terrified of him from the moment I learned what happened. In my mind, he morphed into something inhuman, “the entity” that robbed my mother of her body and ultimately her life, but honestly, I came to recognize the fantasy in that. I came to see that I had painted a picture of the situation that was born of my own fear and hurt and frustration. It was the result of seeing my parents persevere and suffer daily during those 2 and a half years, seeing my brother suffer quietly, seeing my grandmother’s mental acuity decline under the burden, seeing dreams for the future disappear for all of us.
But on that day, I read Isaiah 43:25. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” It had been written on our shower door for the better part of the year, but on that day it spoke to me. I wept, not because forgiving was hard, but because I had been so hard. I had forgotten the breadth of my own sin and though I had been forgiven much, had been unable to forgive. I was the unmerciful servant and it was an ugly thing to realize. The way I looked at my uncle shifted that day. Could I imagine the weight of killing someone I love by accident? Could I bear the weight of that? Did hating him restore her body or restore her life? The terrible image of a monster that I had allowed myself to paint melted away into the image of a regular, broken, human being, loved by Christ and worthy of my forgiveness. The judgement that comes after the grave is sufficient for me.
Jason drove me to his house that evening and I forgave him plainly and fully, and that is my story. Please do not hear my story as condemnation of your own. These things don’t happen the same for everyone, nor should anyone expect them to. It took nearly three years to arrive at that place, and I still marvel at the grace that had to be poured out on me before it could happen. I am thankful for the weight that was lifted, thankful for the grace I received, and thankful for the opportunity to extend that grace to another.
When I set out to write this, I didn’t intend to head down such an uncomfortable path, but I think, in order to understand what I mean about adoption leading to a posture of desperation for heaven, I needed to reiterate how broken we are and how broken this world is. If we begin to believe that this world is the height of “goodness,” or that heaven is about fluffy clouds and bored angels, we forget that heaven is really about no more pain, no more death, perfect restored bodies and minds united with their God and creator and the One who ransomed them from sin. Heaven is worth being desperate for, and we catch glimpses of it as we wait.
My mother’s passing has increased my awareness of our imminent deaths. It has turned head knowledge into heart knowledge and has made me yearn for the day when these things will be no more. When accident and disease and murder are wiped away like so many tears, I will see her again, whole and smiling.
I do so hope that you will be there with us.