So my mind continues to dwell on Greg, death, life, and hope.
I don’t suppose this is overly morbid or unexpected. I’m sure there’s a part of us that will always remember January 31st as a very sad, tragic day. It’s good that we remember him, and that death comes to all of us unexpectedly. And, as Pastor Tom (Greg’s father-in-law) said in his sermon at the funeral, there’s a time for asking, and a time for moving on from unanswerable questions. I’m sure my time for “moving on” is soon… but it’s just not yet. Furthermore, I have a pretty good idea of who the readers of this blog are, and I don’t doubt anyone would begrudge me the time to think on this.
The Central Christian belief is that Christ has conquered Death. Scripture contends that he “holds the keys to death” , “winter is slowly melting away into Springtime.” It even mocks Death: “Oh Death, where is they sting? Where is thy victory?” I remember Greg sharing this very fact to us this last Easter, when he disclosed his sickness to the entire family. I believe Christ conquered Death; I don’t think you could call yourself a Christian without believing this.
But there’s an obvious incongruity here: how do I believe that in light of what’s happened to one of the most innocent, earnest Christ-followers I’ve ever met? How does God defeat Death while ardent followers of Him are so clearly defeated by Death?
I read this passage at Greg’s funeral. It’s been in my mind ever since I read it, and I think maybe I’ve learned part of the answer to that question in this passage.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him… (emphasis mine)
Here we see a startling juxtaposition: the author is blunt with how short and insignificant each of our lives are. We have a few years on the planet (if we are lucky), and then ‘whoosh!’– we are gone! Just to make the point crystal clear, the author emphasizes that the place ‘remembers it no more’. It’s as if we were never here. Another flower will bloom, and we will forget all about last season’s flower. Our life is that insignificant.
And immediately after, the author contrasts our own insignificance with God’s significance. “BUT”, he says… (always pay attention when the “but” comes in Scripture!) from everlasting to everlasting is God’s love! The point is made clear by juxtaposing mortals’ temporary life and God’s everlasting life: they couldn’t be more different in length, and (more importantly) in significance. As startling as my own insignificance is, God’s significance is that much more.
So I’m left with something mind-bendingly awesome. My blip of a life, that will end sometime very soon, has the chance to be significant. Not because of anything I have done, but because of whom I have a relationship with. I have the opportunity to have “everlasting life”- in God. And that opportunity allows me- insignificant and small- to connect with the most powerful force in the universe.
And that’s how God conquers Death.
Even with all this, it doesn’t make the pain of Greg leaving any easier. He’s still gone, and we still miss him. But it does help me put in perspective what is important, and what I must do with my remaining days of life. And I’m confident Greg did just this, too.