Several years ago I was packing my bags for an international flight, a trip that would take me to Guatemala, and I felt I needed to write Cindy and the girls a letter. Three letters, one each to be read in case something fatal happened to me.
Dave Ramsey recommends as part of his “Legacy Drawer” (a package of financial information for your loved ones in the event of your death) to write these kinds of letters. I certainly need to update mine and include one for Micah. I’ve been putting it off, though, because it was a heartwrenching task before.
What do you write to your wife who will have been suddenly left alone to raise the kids?
How do you begin to tell your teenage daughters that you wished you could have been there to walk them down the aisle? That you pray the man they’ll marry Dad would approve of.
How do you start a letter to your toddler to tell him that you wished you could have taken him to Little League games, that he needs to listen to his mama, that in the event she remarries, he needs to respect his step-father and allow him to be a surrogate daddy because a boy needs a man?
A difficult chore indeed. But, oh, how they would treasure a posthumous letter from me. I need to make it a priority.
Shifting gears a bit …
The running joke among Christian kids regarding Scripture memory involves the shortest passage in the Bible, and the one smack dab in the middle of my reading in John 11 — “Jesus wept.”
I used to think, Now, that’s nice. Jesus is emotional concerning the death of his friend Lazarus, brother to Mary and Martha. But there’s more to it. There is more John hints at than grief. There underlies an anger on Jesus’ part.
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” –John 11:32-37 (ESV)
This was it right here. This is what Jesus came to do. His mission was to defeat the power of sin. Overcome the power of sin and you’ll eradicate its consequence — death. But death would live longer. Death endures still today.
In that moment Jesus may have been dwelling on the fact that physical death wouldn’t be defeated at the cross, nor at the resurrection. Not immediately anyway. Yes, when we die, we go to be with Jesus instantly, but we leave behind our “survivors.” (Odd word, isn’t it? Survivors?) We leave behind those who will grieve our passing.
Perhaps Jesus looked ahead 2,000 years when three kids would lose their daddy and a young woman would become a widow. I don’t want this for my family, and I pray I’ll be around for a long time. (It’s why I hit the gym a few times a week and try to eat right, so I can tell our grandchildren all about Jesus.) But until Jesus returns for good, my body is fragile and ultimately subject to physical death. I must live in light of this fact.
Someday the final enemy will be destroyed. Jesus will be “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” until that day.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. –1 Corinthians 15:20-26 (ESV)