The Balance of Death and Life
A few weeks ago, I received news of a student of mine, who was need of a new heart due to his failing one had finally received the organ he so desperately needed. He is a 14-year-old young man. He comes from a family of believers, and his faith is second to none. When asked if he would ever trade his body for one that had no issues, he stated, “No. God is doing great things to bring glory to his name through my condition.” The foresight, maturity, and wisdom that exist in this young man, are far beyond his years. I have been incredibly blessed to be encouraged by him in the midst of his difficult situation by his unrelenting desire to stay rooted in his faith.
About four days later, my best friend reached out to me to inform me that his father had died. He was simply gone. There was no warning, no time to process, no time to prepare. Simply, death. It’s hard for me to understand such a travesty, not having lost anyone terribly close to me, all I can do is extend my deepest condolences, and sit with him in the midst of terrific pain, anguish, and questioning. To question, to me, is to seek some type of solace, for an “unsolaceable” type problem. Asking questions, to which we know there are no satisfactory answers is a necessary part of our grieving process. It’s hard. While there can be some relief and comfort found in the fact that his dad was a believer, and a pastor at that, it doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, the natural question arises, “Why, after serving God for so many years, was he taken in such a sudden way? Where’s the fairness in that?”
I think about these two men. On opposite ends of life’s spectrum, one nearing his seventies, the other not even a legal adult. I think about the seeming randomness of it. My initial thought is to label it as prayer “working” for one, but not the other. I don’t think I am alone in this sentiment. Many of us, if we’re honest, would admit that we don’t fully understand how prayer works, or the seeming lack thereof in some cases.
Out of frustration, I began turning to the letters of
Paul, attempting to make sense of, or gain some clarity, or I don’t know, it just seemed to be the place to go. My searching brought me to Philippians 1, and in particular, 1:21. Paul, in the midst of his jail scenario, has conflicting feelings about wanting to be freed to return to the Philippians, or truly freed to go and be with Jesus Christ. He sums up his thoughts on the manner with a pithy phrase, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” These words have etched themselves into my brain and have fixated themselves as the object of my mental energy for the last week. “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” In the span of four days, I have seen these words lived out with a ferocity that I did not know possible.
“To Live is Christ.” This young man, clinging to life, demands that Christ be known by his nursing staff, his friends, random internet strangers who read his blog, with whomever his sphere of influence can include. The supplication of a heart fulfilled, and sure enough, he continues on, making a heavenly impact to the best of his abilities, because, “to live is Christ.”
My best friend’s father. A man who lived a wonderful life supplying love, comfort, peace, and blessings to all whom he met. Bringing me in as a part of his family, laughing, telling stories. Commanding attention of all around him with his thoughtfulness, his quiet demeanor reminding you that it really is a good idea to “think before you speak.” A man who regarded death as a mere passageway to the place where true life begins, because, “to die is gain.”
I write these words with a heavy heart. While I do not find relief at the sudden loss of life. I must take comfort in the reality that both men have dedicated themselves to Christ. I am sure that both men would demand that I continue to make Christ known in all that I do, in the totality of who I am.