Have you ever been afraid to try something because you might fail?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has fought this battle. As far back as I can remember, I’ve hesitated to attempt something that I’m not confident about. Let me give you an example.
I was a senior in high school. My grades were excellent and I had applied to a “selective” university that I really wanted to attend. I’d completed all the college track classes I needed—English, math, science, etc., but I still lacked a “fine or practical art.” I really wanted to take photography. I had been given my first SLR camera for Christmas and I wanted to take magnificent photos. However, academically, this was new territory. I knew I could do classwork, and I have a knack for taking exams, but photography was creative. Could I do that too? What if I couldn’t?
What is our eternal destination? While there have been some prominent church leaders proposing their own interpretation of the Bible on this topic, I always assumed that most Christians agreed on the basics—heaven and hell are real, and only perfect people can live in heaven. Since no one is perfect, we have to rely on Jesus’ perfection on our behalf. Otherwise, we consign ourselves to hell. Pretty orthodox—or at least I thought so.
With the recent death of my dad, lots of people are expressing their condolences. I really appreciate all the kindness we’re receiving—everyone has been so wonderful! What I find surprising, however, is how many people just assume that my dad went to heaven.
Pete and I have spent much of the last week and a half in emergency rooms and hospitals. After years of gradual decline, my 91-year-old dad took a sudden nosedive. He’d been enjoying his new living arrangement, going to the hall parties, filling up on his favorite foods, smiling a lot. Then one day we went to see him and he was curled up on his bed refusing to get up. In spite of bed trays and persuasive nurses, he refused to eat or drink. Then he fell… and fell again, hitting his head.
While we’ve been anticipating this point for years, it was still a bit of a shock. Suddenly Pete and I were faced with huge decisions. Rather than create an advanced directive, where every possibility is considered and plans decided ahead of time, my dad had assigned the two of us joint “durable medical power of attorney.” The idea was that, knowing my dad and his end-of-life preferences, we would be able to flex according to the circumstances.
Everybody wants to go to heaven
Have a mansion high above the clouds
Everybody want to go to heaven
But nobody want to go now
Everybody wanna go to heaven
Hallelujah, let me hear you shout
Everybody wanna go to heaven
But nobody wanna go now
I think I speak for the crowd
Nobody want to go now
—Kenny Chesney, “Everybody Wants to go to Heaven”
As followers of Jesus, we have an incredible assurance: we’re going to spend eternity alive with him. I know a lot of Christians who are eagerly looking forward to that day when they see their Savior face to face. Yet, when presented with an opportunity to see him now—when diagnosed with a potentially terminal illness, for example—most choose to fight for life. Does that mean they lack faith?
As I write this Thursday morning, one of our closest friends is being prepped for transplant surgery. After only eight weeks on a waiting list, the call came that somewhere in Colorado a young man had been critically injured in a car accident. He had signed a donor card and was a good match. What had until now been a theoretical, someday possibility suddenly became, “Let’s go, this is real!”
After talking to the transplant coordinator, our friend’s first reaction was to earnestly pray for the donor and his family. After all, we know from firsthand experience that God can bring to life even the dead, and this man was not dead yet. Our friend was more than willing to wait, should God choose to heal him. But an few hours later came another call—there was no brain function and the doctors were taking the man off life support.
One and a half weeks ago, our new grand-niece Gracie Lou was born. She was three months early, but she had stopped growing, and the pregnancy was putting both her and her mother at great risk. So she arrived by emergency C-section on April 16, weighing just under a pound, not much longer than a new pencil.
For eleven days, Gracie received the best medical care available anywhere. She was saturated in constant prayer by countless friends, relatives, and those who didn’t even know her but cared just the same. There was certainly no lack of faith or commitment on behalf of the intercessors. She was loved and wanted. And she struggled, fighting for her life.