This past Saturday, my grandfather passed away. It was good, as he had both lung and brain cancer, and following the treatment for the brain tumours, his health headed downhill fast. The suffering has ended, praise God!
You know, when we experience death, not ourselves personally, but experiencing such via loved ones who pass away, I think it provides an opportunity to survey life as a whole. Nothing else can bring us to ponder certain things except through the eyes of death.
It is a horrible reality, is it not? Death is the furthest from the will of God! And I am glad that through the resurrection of Christ, death has lost its sting! But, in this age, we still must embrace it.
As I’ve pondered the death of my grandfather, also not being able to travel to be close to my family right now, it has made me realise some things, come to grips with certain realities. One is that my parents will only be with us for another 20-25 years (maybe a few more). It seems long when you have forgotten the reality of death. But it really came to me that two and a half decades is not that long when considering I have already reached 32 years of age. Though I am not old by any means, how in the world did I reach 32 already?! Where have those years, those first 3 decades and a bit, gone? I was just getting on the school bus for my first day of school some 27 years ago!
As I continued to ponder these things, in my mind, I was brought to the passage in James, the one about us simply being a mist, a vapor (Jam 3:13-17). It really brought some perspective on the whole issue of death and the time span we are granted in this age. And now my mind has been turned to the opening words of Ecclesiastes where the teacher shouts the utter meaninglessness of so much in life.
Meaningless is the Hebrew word hebel. It refers to that which is without real substance, like a puff of wind, a breath or an airy nothingness. This could be comparable with the breath I just took into my lungs. I could have gone without it. There wasn’t too much to that one breath.
And I wonder if James was himself thinking about the teacher in Ecclesiastes?
I don’t write as one in some deep and morbid depression. I don’t write as one headed into a tailspin of hopelessness. I am simply recognising that death makes us think through many of these things.
And if my whole life is comparable to a puff of air, a quick vapory mist, then the next 4 or 5 decades that I have are even less than that little puff. It comes and goes oh so quick.
Nike used to have the slogan – Life is short, play hard – of which some Christians reappropriated the slogan to state – Life is short, pray hard. For me, life is short and I am aware that there are much more important things in life than some of the things I would tend to place emphasis upon.
I’ve recently been sharing with a few friends what a close spiritual confident once relayed to me during an extreme time of stress and frustration and hurt and anger. Probably to my own fault, much was on my shoulders. I couldn’t see very clearly. And his response: ‘Scott, you need to go home, play with your son and make love to your wife.’ It was a bit of a surprise at first to receive this as the great wisdom passed on to me. But it was one of the greatest pieces of wisdom I have received in life, sticking with me to this day. And it has led me to share it with a few others as well.
In another 30 years or so from now, when full-time ministry has finished, I will not wish that I had written one more article, finally put out a book or two, preached one more sermon, taught one more lecture, met with one more person for encouragement or counsel, started one more programme to train people, reached out to one more person. To take up all of those and 30 years later realise there is a void, a great chasm, that exists between me and the most important people God has gifted me with (my wife and children), that would be the greatest tragedy of all.
Oh, I can take part in the other items mentioned above, as God so directs. But they don’t mean squat when you and your life are but a vapor, a puff of air, and you’ve lost focus of what is most important in the heart of God.
These past few days, I have been embracing death. It’s a difficult thing to deal with. I don’t do this morbidly, but simply as I recall the reality of this life, in this age, awaiting to participate fully in what Christ has already done in his defeat of death through his resurrection.
What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.