It was a simple brass plaque with raised letters, just one word: E-T-E-R-N-I-T-Y. I have only seen anything of it's kind on this one trip, tracing the steps of a Scottish Pastor whose writings impacted me deeply, Robert Murray McCheyne. Outside the church where he served - in old Scottish construction form - is a cemetery. An old gate serves as entrance to the stately burial ground. The plaque is the threshold of the gateway. All of us are just a few heartbeats away from crossing over Eternity.
Our perception and preparation will guide our attitudes, hopes and even fears when facing the brass plaque.
Over the past 16 months I have spent 52 days (and counting) in a hospital bed with three different physical challenges. Four of those days were in a medically induced coma. I write from experience.
1. We play the "Why Me" lottery. There are, simply stated, not always simple answers to complex questions. Why did the nine year old cousin fly over the steering of his quad and break his neck, killing him? Why were two selfish parents not stopped from hoisting their child up by his feet and striking him until he was dead in Pennsylvania? Why do bad, horrible and senseless things happen?
I have come to accept that God's silence is not to be interpreted as absence or apathy. Like a parent who allows us to fall as we learn to walk or ride a bike, there is a greater purpose God is accomplishing through our momentary pain. My parents could have prevented my broken tooth which resulted from that skateboard spill simply by eliminating any skateboards in my life, but they chose to allow me liberty which included bad outcomes. That is not indifference on their part, nor is it God's when he did not eliminate driving. He prevented all car crashes prior to the late 19th century. Limit your liberty and problem solved. He chose liberty for you and me. That is not indifference on His part.
God knows and cares all the time. He is sovereign, but I choose not to allow circumstances to dictate what I know to be what he has indicated about His heart and nature.
2. This is my new normal. There have been additional restrictions physically, changes emotionally, challenges relationally as some of the health issue occur. Lately, I have even heard the following voiced: 'He's not what he used to be.' Ouch.
Maybe you are in a season of transition and finding technology just out of your grasp and the grand kids are not always available to repair or instruct. Maybe your chosen career field has new regulations or challenges to remain competitive requiring further study and creative energy. Possibly the hurt of losing a spouse to disease or divorce robs you of joy at present.
One option is to fight to recover - society does celebrate those that overcome. At the same time you cannot un-die someone's death, recreate dead synapsis. Possibly an option is to embrace God's control and walk in this new chapter of life, with the calm assurance that if He has you there, He has you there for a purpose.
3. Everyone loves to be comforted, but not disturbed. Comfort only comes to those in distress. If you are in a deep, tough place, know that this is where God desires to meet people. Somehow in a world where we throw away the broken things, God especially loves the broken.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4 ESV)
4. Every race is concluded sometime. It is for Him to determine how much longer. Without any expression of resignation - I am still passionate about family and ministry - I do long to see Jesus' eyes and know him as he is, plus be reunited with some beloved family.
I count it a true blessing to know experientially that I looked death in the face and I did not fear. I know who holds tomorrow and that makes all the difference today.
Reader, place all of your trust in the One who endured the cross for you. He rose on the third day for you and said he wants you to be with him. When you head towards the brass plaque ETERNITY in Christ, you will find that it is in actuality, gold.