Last week a young Canadian named Jordan Morrison was killed in the aftermath of a bar fight while on vacation with his parents at a resort in the Dominican Republic. He was 19 years old. Marion and have four grown children, all in their early adult years, and I can’t imagine how we would feel if one of them were killed. Although it’s difficult to know exactly what happened, it appears that Morrison was a relatively innocent victim, who was beaten up because he had defended a girl that he was with. Families go on vacation for respite; this family encountered tragedy instead.
The other day a Pokot woman died of starvation in Kenya. The Pokot are a mostly-nomadic tribal group who have been severely affected by a devastating drought in their traditional lands. The story made the news in Kenya, and was drawn to my attention by a Kenyan friend. I watched an NTVKenya report on the woman’s death. The newscaster didn’t try to hide his frustration with the Kenyan authorities, who from his perspective have been distracted by squabbling and have done little to help the Pokot cope with the famine.
This afternoon one of my colleagues told me that a childhood friend had just experienced the death of his mother. She was in her seventies, so her passing was somewhat less of a surprise, but it still hit home. My colleague is dealing with the reality that the friends of his childhood are losing their parents to death. I remember realizing, when my father died a little over four years ago, that my life was passing by and my generation would be next. This realization became more acute when my mother died fifteen months later. Life is short and fragile.
A couple of weeks ago a young Ottawa-area couple and their 2½-year-old son were sent to hospital after their car was struck by another vehicle whose driver had gone through a red light. The mother was eight months pregnant. Thankfully, the parents were released from hospital soon afterward and the unborn child appears to be unharmed, but little Luca continues to fight for his life. His pastor reported to the Kanata EMC news that his condition continues to improve gradually. Many are praying for his full recovery.
Last night Katie Wilson went to be with Jesus. Katie is the fifteen-year-old daughter of a wonderful Christian couple from the Belleville area. Her older sister is one of my daughter’s circle of friends. During her time in hospital her sunny disposition and indomitable faith provided a wonderfully positive influence on all who cared for her. Many people had been praying for her healing, but God’s answer was to allow her to pass into the presence of Jesus. Her parents, brother John and sister Jacqui take comfort in their confidence that she is with Jesus, but their grief will undoubtedly be deeply felt. Her passing provides a sobering reminder that life is fragile, and although our choices do make a difference, ultimately we have no control over how we will die or how long we will live.
Reality check: life is short, and you are going to die, unless the end of the age comes first. So am I. So is everyone. We don’t get to choose how, or when. We only get to choose how we are going to live in the meantime.
Some people say that death is a natural part of life, that we should just get used to it. Still, no-one who is healthy wants to die. That’s because we were not made for death but for an eternal relationship with God. God has put eternity in our hearts. Death is an intruder, the unavoidable result of Adam and Eve’s decision to choose the way of independence from God – but it’s not the final word, because Jesus rose from the dead, as a sign of the great harvest that is coming.
Faced with the inevitability of death, many choose a basically self-focussed life, reasoning that if they are going to die they might as well have as much fun as they can have while they are alive. Others choose safety, seeking to build a fence around their lives to protect themselves from harm – another form of self-preoccupied living.
I remember what it was like to be preoccupied with myself, but ever since I encountered Jesus as He really is, my priorities have changed. I’ve become convinced that He holds the keys to life as it was meant to be lived. I’m far from a perfect man, and I still have to make the daily choice to turn away from self-preoccupation, but I am no longer able to live for myself – it just doesn’t satisfy. My priorities are wrapped up in Jesus and His coming Kingdom. Like Luca’s father, I can’t afford bitterness and regret – I want to live in the light of Jesus’ mercy. Like Katie, I can’t afford self-pity – I want to live in the joy that Jesus gives daily, even in the midst of pain, to those whose hope is in Him. I know that one day He will return to restore all things. I don’t know exactly when that day will come, but when it does, those who love Jesus will see Him face to face, Katie will have a restored body, no-one will die of starvation anymore, and two year olds won’t be killed in car accidents. In the meantime I want to spend my life preparing the way for my King, reflecting His priorities in my living. This to me is the way of victory. It’s the only way to honour the faithfulness of those who have lived and died with their eyes on Him. It’s the only way to honour His sacrifice for me. It’s the only way to truly live.