I was going to do the second part of “Haters Gonna” for my God post this week….
But my neighbor died this morning.
I woke up to see my mom and brother staring out the window, watching the flashing ambulances, sheriff, and fire trucks outside the white house across the street. At first we weren’t too panicked. The woman who lives there has emphysema and COPD, which apparently are from smoking for decades.She also was diagnosed with cancer a couple years ago. Ambulances have come to get her several times for a trip to the ER, and then she just goes back to normality. Maybe she fell and hit her head, we wondered. She’ll be fine…
But then the paramedics stopped running…
They started bringing equipment out to the car…
They turned the lights on the ambulance off…
And everyone stood in a circle over in the other yard, talking in low voices, coming in and out of the house…
My next door neighbor’s son, who is four years old, said, “Mommy, where’s Ms. Doris?”
“I don’t know…”
“Did she go to Heaven? She went to Heaven didn’t she?”
None of us knew what to say. Then we saw the paramedics bring out the stretcher, a body strapped down to it, the white sheet over her head. Gone. Just like that. In a blink. I remember going over to her house and talking with her at the kitchen table. I remember her bringing us tons of gourmet Christmas treats over the holidays. I remember sitting on her back porch, brushing off her furry white mutt.
Folks, you can’t plan for it. Just one swerve in a vehicle, one dive, one wrong step, one malfunction….and it’s over. Done. The last word in the book is written, and rather than beginning a new chapter, the book closes. You never know when it will happen…or how…
You can’t plan for it, but I believe that you can PREPARE for it.
I listened to an audiobook the other day called “A Peep Behind the Scenes”, and one such “scene” featured a dying man who had been mortally wounded in a riding accident. He called his daughters to his bedside and managed to gasp out his last words: “Don’t wait until your dying day to get ready for the next life.”
Get ready…get ready…
How? By living for eternity, rather than for just the moment. It’s hard to do, because what we see, touch, taste, feel, and experience in this life has so much more precedence over our daily actions than eternal imaginings do. But days like today are a slap in the face. GET READY.
Revelation 22:12 tells us why we should prepare:
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.
Justice will be done. Rewards and punishment will be dealt out ACCORDING TO WHAT WE HAVE DONE. While salvation is apart from works, that is not to say that what we do in this life has no meaning for all of eternity.
A couple verses before, in chapter 21 verses 6-7: “And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will by My son.”
The one who conquers. Not the one who sits back and lets the years fly by. Conquers what? In other places, Jesus speaks about overcoming the world. He speaks about overcoming the flesh and the devil. These things we can’t do on our own, but once He has rescued us, He gives us the power to CONQUER. This is how we finish the race of life well. This is how we attain the prize, the reward that He talks about in the end. We prepare by first turning to Him for salvation and then by turning to Him everyday to help us work well, fight well, and conquer completely.
Anything related to death, whether in movies or in real life, comes as a reality check that everyone’s days are numbered. But this is what motivates us to live that warrior life rather than waste our days away. As Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
That’s how we get wisdom, and the strength and hope to live every day. By numbering our days. By remembering eternity. And by remembering that whatever we do now will have an affect forever.
Lastly, I love to not think of death as THE END of the book, but as the beginning of a much better story. As C.S. Lewis put in The Last Battle:
“And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
The best is yet to come.
Live today people, in light of this knowledge. I pray I won’t forget it and just move on to continue living in complacency. There are rewards to be won, battles to be conquered, and lives to be impacted.
“It happens in a blink
It happens in a flash
It happens in the time it takes to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there’s no stopping time
What is it I’ve done with my life?
It happens in a blink….”