There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under heaven..and a time to die.– The Teacher (Ecclesiastes 3:2 NIV)
“Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.”– John Wayne
I’m thinking of turning my phone off on Sundays. I never expect bad news on Sunday; for me, it’s a day of peace and relaxation, of family and friends. Having a home-based business, I expect phone solicitors and campaign calls during the week, so I gird my loins with FCC regulations and prepare to spout the bad news in their direction. But on Sunday my guard is down, which makes the blow even tougher to absorb.
“Catherine has been badly hurt, and we’ve called Flight For Life.” (Sunday, January 23, 2000)
“Someone you trusted bullied your elderly mother out of her life savings; she is now destitute, infirm, ineligible for Medicaid, and has nowhere to go.” (Sunday, July 25, 2010)
My mouth goes dry and stays that way. My mind spins as I ask all the questions I can think of: Where is she? Where should I go? What should I do? Is she going to be okay? How could this happen?”
Shock overcomes me as I get off the phone, and I shake even as I spring into action. I feel like I’m going to throw up. I can’t stop saying, “Oh God help me, help me, help me God, please help me.”
Obviously, the death of my daughter was by far the most traumatic. It altered the fabric of my being down to the molecular level. After church, Catherine went snowmobiling with her youth group. She drove off the trail by mistake and into a drift. Gunning the engine for speed to escape, she got tangled in a barbed-wire fence buried under the snow. As she plowed forward, it stretched taut across the front of the sled, tighter still, until it snapped over the top and hit her in the face. The force broke her neck, shattered her skull, and destroyed her head below the nose. Thank God she never knew what hit her. She died about fifteen minutes later in the arms of her youth leader, drowning in her own blood on a sunny January afternoon. The day before my birthday, in fact.
For three or four days my mouth was so dry I just couldn’t bear it. Nothing helped. I had to make sure I always had a water bottle and some hard candy with me lest I puke my guts out everywhere I turned.
This past Sunday, the phone rang as I was getting dressed to go to church.
“Rachel, your mama told us not to call you, but things have gotten bad, so we decided to go against her wishes even though she’ll be mad at us.”
Your mama. That’s how they talk down south, in central Florida. If you’ve only been to the beach or the Mouse, you haven’t seen the real Sunshine State. However, if you’re out to lunch and the waitress says, “you wont sweet tae or unsweet tae with thay-at?” you’ve been to Florida. If you flick on your bedroom light and cockroaches the size of your thumb come “a flyin’ atchya,” you’ve been to Florida. That’s where my mama lives.
Last week I told you all (okay, y’all) about Crazy Town. I feel Florida’s oppressive heat and humidity already. Less than twenty-four hours after posting about hurricanes and child abuse, twenty-two hundred miles from the scene of the crime, my guts are back in my throat and I’m frantically searching for bottled water and hard candy. Oh God please help me, please help me.
This is the other kind of death.
We all have them. The little deaths. The realization that a relationship will never be reconciled. A betrayal. The loss of a marriage, or a job, or our health. A reversal of fortune. The death of a dream. Just as no one escapes the final exit, no one is exempt from the little deaths.
We all have ways of coping with our losses.
In Ecclesiastes, the fatalistic Teacher pretty much admonishes the reader to eat dirt and die.
As a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain since he toils for the wind?
All his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger. (Ecclesiastes 5:16b-17 NIV)
As we’ve studied Ecclesiastes, we’ve seen the hopeless attitude of a man, even a privileged man, as he looks through the lens of a finite life. Sorrows, joys, privilege, and squalor- all looked the same to him, because he had no hope. He lived in a world that hadn’t seen Jesus.
As I have stated before, we do not live in a pre-Messiah world. We have a choice of eyewear. We can view our lives through the narrow lens of our little deaths, or we can don the bifocals of faith. Our eyes downcast, we still see our lives as they really are, acknowledging the difficulties and mourning our griefs. But the top lens on a pair of bifocals is for distance vision. We lift our eyes to heaven for the promise of the joy set before us. The apostle Paul wrote these words in his second letter to the Corinthians:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (II Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)
I’m looking forward to this Sunday. The first thing I did last week when the bad news came was to call my pastor. He prayed for me over the phone. Then he went to work and led the congregation in praying for me and my family in our time of need. All week I’ve been receiving phone calls and emails of encouragement. The saints are praying for me. Their intercession doesn’t bounce off the clouds; it storms the gates of heaven on our behalf. I trust and believe that God is working out these circumstances for our good and His glory. I know that my Redeemer lives.
Come back next week for “a time to plant.” I’ll let you know how this is working out.
May God bless and keep you.