There's something on my heart that I feel driven to share, but don't know how to translate these feelings, thoughts, ideas, memories, to English. Please bear with me as I give this an honest try...
Why start my story with this verse/picture? Well, simply, I'm a people pleaser. What I'm about to share is possibly going to upset a few people, shake some friendships, make some of you question our relationship or squirm a bit. So with this caveat in place, I trudge forward. I love you, I cherish you, too much not to be blunt.
I'm not quite sure how to state this without sounding cocky, but for lack of more delicate wording, I've recently come to realize that I rather stun (in a good way) a lot of people. I "should" be dead. Since I'm not, I should still be in a nursing home. I should still have machines feeding me, maybe even breathing for me. I should be a "vegetable." Instead I am leading a limited (no driving, only one totally usable hand, no homeschooling anymore, lots of pain issues, great hearing loss, etc.) but fairly "normal" life. I care for most of my own personal needs such as showering, I do very basic math, I cook several meals per week and do some household and family care, I manage our family's schedule, medical needs and transportation organization, I do physical activity (yes, in my own style, but keeping up with a regular, able-bodied class now) at the gym at least two hours each week I garden a little, I read, I research, I write, I am independent enough to be home alone and/or in charge of our children.
I had tasted Eternity and I was ANGRY to be back within the clutches of pain, the grasp of mortality, the limitations of time, the staggering strife of struggle, the fear of human limitation (especially with so many new, extra, intensive limitations to now learn to cope with). I begged God to just take me Home, to let my "skip over" the rest of this lifetime, getting more quickly to the "good stuff" of Glory with Him. I hurt my family, honestly declaring, over and over, my preference to be dead, leaving them behind to struggle on without me. I grieved hard over the separation from my Lord.
As I continued struggling with God, I was caught off guard by a verse a few down from my crushed, perplexed, abandoned, destroyed one, 2 Corinthians 4:11, "We face death every day because of Jesus. Our bodies show what his death was like, so that his life can also be seen in us" (Contemporary English Version), or as the New International Version worded that last phrase, "so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body" (NIV).
This was a huge "Ah-Ha!" moment for me. For months I had been feeling defeated, worthless, useless, purposeless. My kids were living far from home for the entire school year, our marriage was barely hanging by a thread, I could not accomplish most of what I commanded my body (not even the simple thing like see enough to read, nor swallow without trying to drown in my own saliva, not even slightly turn my head without spinning out in violent nausea, nor hold a simple conversation about the most mundane topic without dissolving into a tearful, hysterical, sobbing, shouting maniac). I had yearned for purpose and here it was, God wasn't asking me to "skip to the good stuff" but to stay here, patient in affliction, and let Him reveal Himself to others through my mortal body. This went along exactly what Rick had just challenged me with, that since God hadn't taken me Home to stay, when I was so close, that He had to have a reason. All the sudden I could grasp that, "God has been kind enough to trust us with this work. That's why we never give up" (2 Cor. 4:1, CEV).
Down in verse 16, Paul continues, "We never give up. Our bodies are gradually dying, but we ourselves are being made stronger each day" (CEV), or as I memorized this verse as a child, "Outwardly we are wasting away, though inwardly we are being renewed day by day." The one thing my moments so near God's glory did ultimately concrete for me, is the reality that this earthly life truly is just a vapor, a breath, a blink in light of Forever! So yes, outwardly, I am daily living in death's shadow, but inside I will NEVER die. Life goes on and on for all eternity. I can get through this little blimp of time, because it is such a tiny speck. As 2 Cor. 5:9 states, "But whether we are at home with the Lord or away from him, we still try our best to please him" (CEV).
So here's the kicker, the part many readers may not appreciate. YOUR life will never end either. While that may not sound at all bad, reassuring after what I've just shared, in fact, there's a major problem that terribly concerns me. I have so many friends who either don't take Eternal Life at all seriously, or who believe they will spend forever in peace either because they are "good people" or do good things." The problem being that God is very clear about three thing. First of all, He does exist, secondly, no matter how good we are, none of us is without sin thus cannot enter into His perfect Home without Someone to make a way for us, and third that no matter what good things we do, they will never be enough. (If you feel you are relying on church attendance, baptism or your good deeds, but still struggling to know what God is really all about, you may be interested in this article I came across on Religion v/s Relationship.)
"If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith... If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied" (1 Corinthians 15:14 and 19). You may think I'm sadly misguided, so my challenge is simply this: If you feel I'm off here, put God on trial and decide for yourself. If you don't believe in or just aren't sure of God's existence, be daring enough to voice those doubts and challenge God to make Himself known to you if He is even there. What will it hurt if He isn't even there? Once you know He exists, ask Him to guide you into Truth, not by following the teachings of men nor reading other books that claim to be equal with the Bible or that tell you what you should believe, but that God will give you wisdom to understand what He says about Himself, that Jesus, totally God and totally man, willingly stepped outside the wonder of timelessness and took on the confines of this life (as much as I love you, love my family, there's no way I would have made that choice!) and DIED for you (when you were God's enemy!) then defeated death as He rose again, paying the price for my sin and yours, and making the only way for me to be made right in the eyes of a Holy, just God (yes, really is as simple as this linked child's Sunday School lesson!) who forever will welcome me into His presence for all eternity, if only I believe.
If I'm wrong on this, it costs neither of us anything. I get a life of happily delusional joy, hope and peace and make my way through this world on a harmless crutch that makes living doable. You also loose nothing to believe, for when this life ends nothingness or reincarnation or your being good enough to achieve the outcome you expect will still be there.
But if I am right, your failure to acknowledge God and the great price He has paid to assure your Eternity with Him will literally cost you EVERYTHING. By the time you find out, it will be too late to change. :( Please ask God to make Himself real to you!
So, yes, I'm pretty amazing. But not in any stretch of anyone's imagination was this of me! What you see, the recovery that makes you shake your head, the "never give up" attitude that drives the ongoing push forward, the slowly acquired contentment to stay here and embrace the life I've been give, it is so not me! "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, NIV). I fully relate to the Apostle Paul's anguish and final choice, when he wrote, in Philippians 1:21-26, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me."
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, The Message