Metamorphosis in Death
Today my grandfather died. I had a strange dream last night that my boss was mad at me for some odd reason, which I can base on nothing in reality; then, I arrive at work to find out that my coworker needed me to catch up on some work that I had not done. It was not anything to note, except that the dream happened, and, with it, something that correlated directly while awake.
I got the call around noon from my mother. I was at lunch with a friend, and she asked me if I was busy. I said no, but asked if it was urgent. She said yes. Apparently, my grandfather, who had been suffering for some time with Alzheimer’s had passed away early this morning. Immediately, my priorities became blurry.
I drove along later that afternoon and remarked about the sky. This was somewhat different for me, since I rarely take the time to look at the natural beauty that I am blessed with each day. My daily routine and constant schedule require the full tank of my attention. Lately, I’ve noticed in the mornings that I do take some time to remark with the Psalmist that “His mercies are new every morning”. Then, I hit the ground and the grind and don’t take the time to take note again throughout the entire day about my environment, beyond adapting to my immediate surroundings passively to get whatever I’m working on done. Another interesting thing occurred to me while looking around: God didn’t change the sky to suit my grief. In all immediate accounts, it was just another day.
I also noticed another phenomenon in my life. Whenever someone offers condolences for the death of a loved one they do so as acomponent of their day, week, or month. They do not, nor can they, offer true sympathy. The moment(s) that they offer can sometimes be more heartfelt, full of grace, and occasionally better focused on the truth of salvation, but it is still just a moment. Life goes on. I’ve been the person who offers condolences before, and I do not chastise them in the least. I submit this to show how another individual cannot truly feel what another human being goes through in this life. Paraphrasing the Old Testament writer, “naked we enter this world, naked we leave”… we also leave alone.
For some, the impact of my grandfather’s death will be felt more deeply and for a longer duration. For those of you who have lost someone close to you, you may have dealt with a longer sentence of grief or deeper, more robust pain. No one grieves the same. Yet, humanly speaking, I have witnessed a great helper to those who grieve: time.
Time heals even the worst wound of grief or pain. For the Christian, we have the God-given capability to use time as a tool, as long as God gives it, to afford us repose and rest to bind up what has been broken.
When our own time has evaporated, and the times in which God has ordained our life are over, then we will face what my grandfather has recently faced. Death. The End. Judgement. A man who has died speaks to those who live about the truth of the law of God that we have shattered. The very fact that the grave consumes us is a reminder that we are slaves to sin. “The soul that sins shall die,” the Apostle Paul wrote to explain the terminal condition. Louder, death offers this advice: our time is not our own. Death brings a reminder that our lives are swiftly passing away into obscurity no matter how hard we work or what we achieve. Even though I credit my grandfather for passing down to his family a love of country and fellow man, he is still gone from this earth now. If I’m honest with myself, this inheritance is a prize to me, but I would wish him back to life now, here on earth – and healthy.
You may know someone in your life to whom you can attribute receiving blessings. If you are like me, you do not have enough fingers and toes to number the people who have impacted your life with God’s joys. They are sand on the seashore. If your experience has been similar to my own, they far outnumber those who have harmed you.
When Jesus died, the curtain in the temple tore in two. This was athick curtain, and the recording of this event spelled out a miracle because the fabric was too durable to have been shredded by a natural event. The curtain separated the Jewish temple from the “Holy of Holies” – an area that was normally off-limits to all except the high priest on one day a year.
Jesus didn’t see that temple curtain shred because he had already died, but he did accomplish in his death what the curtain signified – our reconciliation with a God that would rather see his only Son suffer excruciating hell than let sinners perish.
Like my dream this morning, I awoke to have a real life version of what I had imagined while asleep. Jesus was raised to life to show that the new reality for God’s children is permanent salvation through faith in him. My grandfather’s death tore the curtain of his life wide open to usher in the brilliance of Jesus and his holy angels arriving to take him to eternal glory because of God’s love for sinners made manifest on the cross. My grandfather believed in the Christ, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Through that faith, he will never again see death or pain. He will live and reign forever with his Savior.
This present situation remains: my grandfather will never again see us on this earth. For some time, his mind and memory were so assailed with his illness, that he did not recognize his family well. Yet, we will see him again because we share faith in the One who has atoned for the sins of the whole world. And, he will see and recognize those who follow him into eternity through faith in Jesus; like my grandfather, we, who are still alive on earth, have the promises of a God who cannot lie and does not change his mind.
During this dream of life, focus on what is behind the curtain, where our High Priest Jesus can offer full and free forgiveness of all of your sins because He has paid for them by his death and resurrection. Break through the curtain in your life that separates you from the truth and comfort of Jesus by opening the pages of the Bible. When life gets fuzzy, focus on the one thing that is important – your God – and be still. Learn from, and follow, your soul’s good Shepherd Jesus. When you cannot bear losing your grandfather, brother, husband, or father, when the pain of death is overwhelming, look to the cross where you will find a Savior, now alive, who can sympathize with your every pain and struggle. You will find your eternal Friend beyond the curtain. You will find your God, Jesus.