I stood quietly among the big crowd at the one week memorial service, this time the ‘observer’, the ‘visitor’, perhaps even the distantly affected. I watched, I listened, and I felt.
Here was a man, young, devoted, loving and real. Here was a man, no more. Yesterday, his dear friends made jokes with him and bade a cursory ‘see you later’. Yesterday, the ones who disliked or didn’t quite get him yet, still said what they usually did or paid him little to no attention. Yesterday, he dreamt of the little boy who would soon carry his name and perhaps the legacy he had and was building. And today, here was a soul, forever freed from his clayey cage. To this earth, dead.
Of other times past, I had heard people say, ‘She was way too young’. ‘Hers was cut short’, I heard someone exclaim the other time. ‘How could such a cruel thing happen when the business he had toiled for years for had JUST started making profit’, one said of an industrious young fellow. ‘She was only a month from marrying the man of her dreams, they had everything planned already’, I had overheard in another instance some years ago.
‘It’s all really vanity, isn’t it?’, I said, looking into the distance, hoping I’d get a ‘YES’ boomed back at me. ‘It’s all really a chasing after the wind, should we just fold and wait for the inevitable then?’ I asked again, there had been no answer to the first question and I didn’t expect one to this either.
It came not as a booming voice but rather as a deep thought that would not be shaken off.
Out of no effort of ours, we arrive, mostly a bundle of joy to the people that came together to have us. We walk in the knowledge of the world we find ourselves in and accept that survival is what we are made for. And so, from dawn till dusk, our every muscle and breath align to submit to this rule we have become accustomed to, ‘Survive or fail’. Somehow the very thought of death and dying become swallowed up in the section of failure. We work, eat, exercise, talk and learn so we do not die, otherwise we think we have failed and miserably too.
But is that really it? Is that the purpose of it all? Is it our sole aim to outlast the oldest that ever lived? Or to live to the ripe old age of 99? Is that when our life truly is ‘well- lived’? Are we here to live as long as possible and then crawl up into bed when our bones are tired and weak and bid farewell to our family and friends as they surround our bed, not knowing what could be next if there’s anything at all?
Psalm 139:16 talks about how every single day of our lives were laid out before we were even born ( or if you will, entered into this side of earth). Mind you, this does not rule out free will, but I’ll talk more about this in a later post. That verse, along with the very thought of God’s sovereignty tells me quite a lot though and the sum of it is that, nothing takes God by surprise.
Wait, so what am I saying? That God knew of the young man whose newly married wife died in a car accident a week after their wedding, before it happened? Or that your favorite teacher who was suddenly diagnosed with cancer and died was not forgotten about by God or that your cousin and her baby dying during childbirth did not leave heaven with their mouths agape wondering ‘what happened’? Yes! It is exactly what I am saying. No, God did not cause the cancer or the accident but yes, their time of death (exit from this side of earth) and yours are well known by God. There is such a thing as living forever. That is called eternity and our immortal spirits will do that. However, our clay containers, or bodies as we call them are temporary and we get to live in them for a while only and then on to a place where there would probably be no use or fit for this flesh anyway.
We do get sad when we lose that person, and rightly so. They are on to the next level and we, well, we just are unable to carry on the very things we previously did with them. The gut-wrenching pain is that of not being able to commune with them as before. For Christians, 1 Thess 4:13 offers us a word of encouragement and a reminder that this is NOT the end, and this we know in the depths of our being, almost as if our spirit man was shouting to us that there is indeed MORE ahead.
As I think long and hard about what may seem like divine cruelty for a young mother to be stripped from her very young children, for the bread- winner to be taken away while the family is left in confusion as to what the next step will be or for the unborn baby to never get to feel the loving touch of his faith- filled father who was senselessly knocked down by a drunk driver, I am drawn again to the word, and to God’s spirit within me that makes me understand, this was no shock to the Father. Indeed, our days are portioned out for us, when we will be born, when we will die and all in-between, of course we have free-will over the in-betweens but over the end of the matter, only the Father can, and He does indeed determine if, it should be longer, shorter or exactly as He planned from the very start.
It’s not divine cruelty then, but there is a divine plan and we can assume the posture of the psalmist who wrote one of my favorite hymns ever click for words (Father, I know that all my life is portioned out for me) and live a life filled with the purpose for which we were made and then, and only then, when we do exit this earth, whether in a flood, a fall or quietly in our beds, we would stand before our Father, not wondering why He gave us only this or that length of days but beyond thankful for the opportunity, purpose and the revelation, as we beam to the sound of the heavenly ‘WELCOME HOME’.