Of course I read this post after coming upstairs from dinner where I got my feelings hurt because of a comment John made about soggy broccoli. There’s nothing like being brought into eternity after wallowing in something as earthly as hurt feelings over broccoli.
As I read Ann’s post I thought of my own, personal friend, who’s just a tad younger. I used to teach with her, and she just graduated with her Ph.D. in education and moved with her husband and two boys to take her first job as a college professor. Now she’s been diagnosed with stage four cancer that’s already progressed. Her treatments will be long and arduous.
I can’t help but wonder if I’d die well.
Once upon a time I think I might have. I don’t think I would have been as wise as Kara, but I think I would have looked forward to it knowing that I get to see Jesus. That’s what my mom was like. In 2010 she was dying of cancer as John was at Duke dying of heart failure. I am slightly infatuated with Duke Hospital, and I was then, too, so I asked my mom if maybe she could come up and get treatments here. No, she preferred to stay at her small, local hospital in Georgia. She knew she was about to see Jesus and that was fine with her.
Being a melancholic to my bones death never scared me. In fact, over the summer I interviewed Joy Eggerichs and she mentioned that she rides her bike or takes a stroll through the cemetery every single day. I thought I had found my soul sister. I crave cemeteries. They bring me peace. The only reason I’ve never admitted that – not even to my husband – until Joy gave me permission is because I might be quickly admitted into an insane asylum. Most people don’t do cemeteries well.
When John was sick I would tell him, “You have nothing to lose. It’s a win/win for you. We’re the ones who have to stay here to mourn you being gone.” Life is hard. And I like easy. I think that’s why heaven is so appealing.
But then I had Ella Grace. And something changed. Some days I find myself overwhelmed by fear that I’ll die before she’s able to do this life on her own. I beg God not to take me before she’s 30. Or maybe 35. With the birth of that baby brought a love greater than Jesus. And a doubt greater than trusting Him.
This life is an idol to me. Because I honestly don’t think He can do it without me. I mean, in my head I do, but in my heart not so much.
Kara didn’t hold this life as an idol. She held it as a gift. A gift to share God’s grace. But not just His grace in the good stuff – His grace in the suffering, too.
Again, when John was sick I was determined to use his life and my experience through it for good. I imagined myself looking Satan – the father of death – straight in the eyes and challenging him saying that he may take my husband but people will know the glory of Jesus because of it. I would not turn my back on Him. God was so gracious to me. The warfare was intense.
If I had surrendered to the idol of life then, with resentment and anger, John’s sickness would have been in vain. No good would have come of it. But determining it to be used for eternity made it all worth it.
I don’t think I’m there anymore, though, as much as that pains me to say. These days I’m terrified of the suffering.
Ann Voskamp says, “In our efforts to terminate suffering — too often we can be forced to terminate the sufferer— when we were meant to liberate the aloneness of the sufferer, by choosing to participate in the sufferings — choosing to stand with the suffering, stay with the suffering, let the suffering be shaped into meaning that transcends the suffering.”
I want my suffering to be “shaped into meaning that transcends the suffering.”
I think that starts with the suffering that comes with surrender. When Jesus surrendered in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was suffering.
I want to surrender like that. I want to suffer life that. Laying down my idols. My idol of this life. My idol of my daughter. My idol of myself.
“The meaning that transcends the suffering” then becomes the supernatural work of Jesus that prepares me for whatever is to come. And that’s what brings souls to eternity.