“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20
I had been driving from Southeast Wisconsin to Northern Wisconsin late one night on an intensely dark two lane highway when it started pouring rain. The densely thick fog made visibility strikingly difficult and I could barely see the white stripe on the edge of the road let alone two feet in front of me. I didn’t want to stop because I was afraid someone might come along and rear-end me so I unknowingly coasted forward hoping the rain or fog would subside in mere moments.
Up ahead I could see what appeared to be the taillights of a truck that was coasting confidently through the storm. He must have had fog lamps in front because his fearless and deliberate pace was no comparison to the disorientation I had been feeling in that instant. But somehow I knew that if I could just follow those taillights, I’d be headed in the right direction.
This experience provided a metaphor for clarity as I have reflected on the last two weeks or so. As some of you know my grandma has been fighting to live as her health is declining. In fact, just last week the doctor’s were not very optimistic about her even surviving through the holiday’s. It breaks my heart because she is my last living grandparent and our relationship is closer than almost any other relationship I have within my family. The deep and intimate talks and moments we share are etched in my memory forever.
About a week ago my mom had been leaving the nursing home where my grandma is staying temporarily and as my mom went to give her a hug to leave, my grandma tearfully gripped my mom’s shoulders tighter and didn’t want to let her go… she was afraid she would die that night. Up until these last few weeks my grandma’s tough outer shell has been broken down and her vulnerability for comfort and clarity is resting in the hands of those closest to her. Immediately the next day I went down to visit because I knew the fear and anxiety she must have been feeling and I just wanted to be there to comfort and encourage her through some of those troubling thoughts.
When I walked in she lit up with joy as her smile contagiously brought a huge smile to my face as well. Before walking in I asked God to give me the strength to encourage her and give her hope in the midst of her darkness. Even though I know she is a Believer I am not certain if she fully understands God’s love and promise and hope in eternal life. I wasn’t sure how I would bring it up to her but I was just trusting in God to reveal to me the right time and I just knew that it was necessary to give her comfort in her last days, weeks or months.
Our conversation transitioned perfectly later in the evening as she said to me, “Kristen, I am dying” with defeat and fear written on her face. While everything in me just wanted to hold her and weep I just knew I couldn’t. I wanted her to know that dying is not a defeat and it is not the end. I wanted her to know that dying is actually a victory because when our bodies are no longer here on earth it means our souls are rejoicing with Jesus in Heaven for all of Eternity. It means that all the pain, struggle, fear, disappointment and chaos are now behind us and we get to live victoriously with the Creator of the world. I told her that she needs to live the remainder of her days with hope in her heart and celebration, not fear and defeat because whenever God decides to call her Home it’s because He couldn’t wait to meet her face to face.
I also told her, “if you live each and every day as if it’s a celebration, I would be willing the bet God would keep you here a lot longer because you will have appreciated the gift of life He has given you. Heck, He might even keep you here another 10 years!” She laughed and said, “I don’t know if I can handle another 10 years.”
It was so wonderful because her spirit turned completely around over the next week leading up into Christmas. Two weeks ago we were talking about Hospice and funeral arrangements and now we are talking about who is going to take care of her when she goes home!
So let me finish the story I began with. I had been just passing through this storm while trusting in the taillights of this unknown truck for what seemed like hours when eventually the storm had passed and I could finally gain some visibility. I could clearly see some landmarks as I rounded a curve that was silhouetted against the night sky. Just ahead I saw the steeple of a church and the cross of Christ reflecting off of the moonlight and I realized in that instant that the confusion of the fog, the heavy rain, the uncertainty of direction – it was all God revealing to me the beauty and light that is promised in Heaven beyond the fear and disorder of the world.
That experience helped me to realize that this life is only temporary and we are all just passing through for a period of time. It also encouraged my grandma during a very unfavorable and scary stage in her life. Even though it’s hard, we have to have faith in the unknown, we have to trust that God is leading us in the right direction, we have to have hope beyond the darkness and we have to realize that our struggles are temporary and eventually the storms of life will pass as victory awaits us.
People need hope. Not just hope for tomorrow but hope for all of eternity. And it is our responsibility as believers to share that hope with others. It’s real easy to allow our own fear and doubt to cloud the truth that we know in our heart. My grandma knew the truth, she just needed confirmation that what exists in her heart is the real promise of God. We celebrated Christmas to thank God for sending His spotless son to earth to die on a cross for our sins so we would never have to experience an ‘end.’ Jesus was just passing through for a mere 33 years just like we all have our own timeline – the difference is, His life (as short as it was) is the exact reason we celebrate – it’s because His legacy changed the world and our eternal lives forever!
Join my grandma in celebrating life and God’s promise for us all:
(At the request of the couple in the mirror – who were Jewish, we all joined them in Celebration on Christmas Eve – just two days ago. Enjoy!)
(I should probably clarify, grandma is still here with us. This is my way of being able to celebrate her life while she is still here).