I spent the evening at a memorial service for a 30 year old young woman. Last week when she went in to have an injury to her knee looked at because it wasn't healing, it was discovered that she had very advanced leukemia. Within 24 hours she was dead. It was completely unexpected and terribly sudden. She had just become engaged to be married which makes it even more tragic. My connection to her was that I was one of her junior high youth leaders, oh so long ago. I'm trying to organize my thoughts about all this, so bear with me
You just never know when your time on earth is up. There was no reason why anyone would expect a seemingly healthy 30 year old to die. I'm afraid the majority of us live our lives as if we're guaranteed that we'll have at least 70 or 80 years. But we just don't know. I've been asking myself if I would live differently if I knew my span of years or the span of years of the those I love. I'm sure I would...I'm sure we all would. On some level it's not practical to live every moment as if the next will be your last, because, really, no one would ever do any laundry. But on another level, it would make all the difference. It would really help to illuminate what is really important. Is it more important to do that sinkful of dishes or to read a story to a couple of little boys? Surely the dishes can wait another 10 minutes. Is it really worth the hassle of loading a bunch of small children (in winter coats) into their carseats to go and visit an older friend who is recovering from surgery? Yes, although it is so easy to put it off to another day...one with perhaps less snow and ice and above freezing temperatures. But what if there isn't another day? If I had just one more day left, would I really want to spend it growling at my children, or being jealous of a neighbor, or buying things I don't really need? No, but yet I do these things, if not everyday, enough to make me a bit uncomfortable about how I spend my time and my attitude towards the time I have.
It also makes me ask myself what do I really believe? Intellectualy, I can give you a wonderful point by point presentation of the Gospel...about God's great love for us and the sacrifice He made for us so that we can be with Him always. (I won't go into that here, if you want the long version email me.) But we all know that it's our actions that reveal our true beliefs. It's why it's annoying when a parent tells a child, "Do as I say, not as I do", because we all know the parent is asking the child to do something the parent isn't, but often should be doing. If I really believe that Christ died to give us eternal life...that we who follow Christ are going to a place where we won't have to say good-bye to loved ones anymore because in this place no one will get sick and die ever again...then why don't I tell more people this good news? Why do I worry so much about what people think of me? I worry that I will be seen as this loony who instead of turning people to Jesus, I will turn them away.
Several of the 20- or 30-somethings who spoke tonight, seemed to have no theology at all. (Actually, I take that back, everyone has a theology whether one realizes it or not.) But they had obviously not thought through what they believed and the implications those beliefs implied. The idea of what happens to someone after death was fuzzy. The general concensus was that there had to be something of the young woman left. I don't believe that many people find the idea of obliteration very palatable. If all life ends in nothingness then Neitzsche and Sartre got it right and we can all go and be depressed somewhere. So the big question is, if there is something of a person left after life, what is left and where does it go? The general consensus of the speakers this evening seemed to be that the person's spirit is left which then floats around and makes those of us missing the person feel better. Um, frankly I find this a bit creepy and rather depressing as well. I don't really want to hang around watching my loved ones mourn, while floaty spirit that I am can't really do anything to ease their pain, and then watch as they move on with their lives while I'm left in some kind of limbo. And what happens when those people are no longer alive? Do they join me in the floaty limbo? What do we do there? I'm afraid we're back to Neitzsche and Sartre in a slightly different package. It all just reminds me how many people there are who are searching for answers, even if they aren't aware of it. And there are answers out there. Answers that are logically coherent; answers that provide hope and purpose; answers that can take the sting out of death.