*And What Comes After
If you’ve been following my blogs, you know by now that my Sunday “amusings” start off with something a tad bit humorous (like this caricature of the Village People and their performance of the YMCA), but quickly moves on to things a bit more serious. This week is no exception.
Ecclesiastes 12:1 – Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them.” (NIV 1984)
I remember when I was little and my dad used to carry me on his shoulders. The thought of him getting old was the farthest thing from my mind. Similarly, when I had my own kids, and I used to wrestle on the floor with Joel or feed Josh a popsicle on my lap, the thought of them growing up or me getting old rarely crossed my mind.
Proverbs 5:18 – “and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” (NIV 1984)
Perhaps I first thought about my parents getting older as they approached their fortieth birthdays. I remember dad joking that once mom turned forty he would “trade her in for two twenties.” Not to be outdone my mom calmly replied that he “couldn’t handle two twenties.” But almost before I knew it, Eileen and I were celebrating our 25th anniversary, the same year that mom and dad celebrated their 50th.
John 6:27 – “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” (NIV 1984)
My mom and dad worked hard all of their lives, not just to make a living, but to make a life for their family. Not forgetting the spiritual upbringing of their children, but rejoicing when they all came to know the Lord. Then the time came for their retirement, the time to enjoy a respite from life’s hard labors. They were getting older, but still quite vital. I remember my dad’s retirement party, watching him skip up the walk, concluding by jumping in the air and clicking his heels together.
Psalm 90:10 – The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength. (NIV 1984)
I remember dad turning seventy and saying that he was living on borrowed time. I am so thankful for the fourteen “borrowed” years our family got to enjoy him and learn from him.
Joshua 14:10, 11 – “So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.” (NIV 1984)
Dad did not make it to eighty-five. But I remember discussing this verse about Caleb with him, he loved discussing scripture with his boys. He marveled at the vigor of Caleb in his old age as his own vigor gave way. Now at age eighty-three, we marvel at my mom’s continued vigor, mowing the yard, raking leaves and snow-blowing.
Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (NIV 1984)
I don’t think my dad feared death, he was sure of his salvation. Maybe, as the end was near, he feared the process of dying some. But he told my mom the thing he dreaded most about dying was not being around to “pray for my boys.” A devoted father up until the end. I remember the entire family gathered at his bedside the evening before his death in the wee hours of the next morning. Standing at the foot of his bed he caught a glimpse of me and smiled. Dad was famous for his smile, and I will always remember that last smile. It wasn’t the “first last” smile for me. Sitting, holding my son Joshua hand years before, as Eileen held him in her arms and his life slipped away, he too left us with a smile as he entered God’s presence.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. (NIV 1984)
I have two that have “fallen asleep” and preceded me. A father and a son. With the three-score and ten creeping up on me, I may not be left “till the coming of the Lord.” But until I am “caught up” or have “fallen asleep,” I need not “grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” For someday, “we will be with the Lord forever.” I am indeed, encouraged “with these words.” I will be greeted by two wonderful smiles once again. My prayer for whoever reads these words has the same hope and that they find the same degree of encouragement.
2 Samuel 12:23 – “I will go to [them], but [they] will not return to me.” (NIV 1978)