Life is but a stopping place, a pause in what’s to be a resting place along the road to sweet eternity. We all have different journeys, different paths along the way. We all were meant to learn some things, but never meant to stay. Our destination is a place far greater than we know. For some, the journey is quicker, for some the journey is slow. And when the journey finally ends, we’ll claim a great reward and find an everlasting peace together with the Lord ~ Nicholas Gordan, Author
July is my birthday month. I opened it by attending a funeral for one of our church members. Mr. Antonio died after years of ill-health. His wife Nelly nursed him faithfully to the end. With all their children grown and living far away, it was just the two of them to care for each other. So Nelly would often sneak into church just for a bit, then quickly slip away to rush back to tend to him. This Saturday morning, I joined my church family at the funeral home for the great send-off.
My pastor understood it was a chance to reach unbelievers and so he preached a theological/apologetics sermon. He touched on how men reject God because they believe that since the bible was written by men, it is not the word of God. Or the similarly popular argument of the supposed errors during the translation of the bible to our modern languages. Poignantly, he stated the obvious -that we reject God simply because we do not want to be accountable to Him for our actions. Truer words haven’t been spoken… But I digress, this is a topic for another day.
The funeral was a solemn affair. Antonio and Nelly’s family gathered together with about 100 people in attendance. After the service, we all got in our cars for the journey to his final resting place. We all had our hazard lights flashing as our procession slowly snaked its way to the cemetery and all traffic honored us on both the highway and interstate roads as we flouted all traffic regulations in honor of a felled life.
The solemnity of the affair had me in tears as I meditated on how eternity is built into our hearts and how we yearn for those that go before us. I understand even better from my bible study just how much God did not mean for us to die. Had we not eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we would have eaten from the tree of life and lived forever. But that is now reserved for those who will run their race well and endure to the end.
I thought about how long our biblical forefathers lived before us, for hundreds upon hundreds of years, all the while contending with their creator, acknowledging him, yet often refusing to worship him; attempting to build Babel to reach Him without Him… Man: we’ve been an audacious species from the very beginning of our existence, a people at war with the very creator that holds their lives in his hands -so much that he decided to limit our lives to 120 years. So the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days shall be 120 years.” ~ Genesis 6:3. Maybe you’ve noticed that even in the Guiness Book of worlds Records, the oldest person is usually around that age, and even when they go slightly over, it’s usually an estimate in the absence of a birth certificate. God did that. He has the power to give us life, take our life, limit human life, extend it, or make it eternal. Yet we refuse to be held accountable by him and so we reject him by rejecting his word. How we permit ourselves to ignore such a powerful God is beyond what my mind can fathom.
Listen to this prayer of Moses from Psalm 90: Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations…from everlasting to everlasting you are God… You turn people back to dust, saying, ‘return to dust you mortals’… you sweep people away in the sleep of death -they are like the new grass of the morning: in the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered… For all our days decline in Your fury; we finish our years with a sigh. Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away ~ Psalm 90:9-10
A good life is defined by how selflessly we lived, if we put others ahead of ourselves as God instructs us to. Philippians 2:3–4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” If we selfishly put our lives above everyone else, there is no honor in a life lived in that manner. If we trampled others for our own selfish wants, then we have lived disgraceful lives.
By all accounts, Antonio lived a good life, an honorable life. He ran a good race, he kept his vows and stayed with his wife to the end. He dedicated his life to others, often allowing the church to converge in his home in the early years before there was a permanent building. Even as we laid roses on his coffin and released balloons in his honor, I can imagine him meeting our savior and hearing him say: well done, good and faithful servant… Once we drove back to church for a meal and a gathering, we swapped stories and had warm fellowship with each other; it is Paul who tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).
I am grateful to belong to a warm and close-knit Chrisitian family. In Psalm 68:6 God makes this promise to those that belong to him: “God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” God has done this for me. When I lived in rebellion to him, my land was parched and sun-scorched. But when I discerned his voice, stopped resisting and answered his call, He led me out of prison with singing, and now he has made a home for my son and I in a warm small-knit, kind-hearted loving church. He truly is faithful; and we are ever so grateful. Praise be to his name forever.