Reality check

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.


12 thoughts on “Reality check”

  1. Excellent Peter, thank you. This is such a good blog for believers, and a VERY good blog for seekers. (well, we are all seekers, some of us just have finally figured out the right direction on the path).

  2. I find it strange the value of life we place on various people of world? Of course a young life lost is much more tragic than one who’s lived a long and full life! But what of the Kenya lady? Is she less tragic a loss than you or I? I am 55 and still feel there is much left to live! Would my death be of greater loss than a lady from Africa? Should hers be any less thought of than mine or yours?
    I can say I do not fear or welcome death. We will see when My turn arrives. I am very much looking forward to singing in the heavenly choir, if I’m even allowed in room to listen I will not guess, but I Hope my heavenly vocal chords are improved from my earthly ones or there may be little chance they may take that risk and let me past the doorway! Just standing in the hall-way for a few seconds, about 6 years ago, was heaven indeed! Harmonies on harmonies and layers upon layers like 10 Mozart concerts simultaneously! Can not be truly described and to be in actual room, in choir, how could I guess?
    In a way I look forward to death? Look forward to the experience and answer the mysteries of the life here-after. I feel a Homesick-ness and longing to return to God! I have my faith but the only true way to know 100% for sure is by walking the path?
    Unfortunately I also know I have a work for him who has saved us and I must also help to prepare a way for his return. There are many that need to be shown the path and where to find it before he returns It is the least any of us can do after all his sacrifices for us!

  3. Just a thought on REALITY and parents passing? I told my first cousin in Trinidad about 9 years ago to cherish the last years you have with your parent/es! He was arguing frequently with his mom but loved her very much! I warned him, after losing my mom, that once they are gone you can never say all the things you think of after they have passed! Also that as long as they are with us, they are the guardians of the gate of death. Until they move over we have that barrier between death and us, although this may be a very thin veil and not a REALITY in fact? There still is a sense we are protected and once gone, we become the barrier for those that follow and death all of sudden becomes that more REAL now that they are gone! We seem to then look at death straight in the face with no protection from our departed parents. No one to ask fatherly advice, except “heavenly” father of course! You then become that last bastion for your descendants! So Value that time you have with them with all your heart and “Honor thy mother and father” as the bible commands! It is a very precious gift we place little value on, in western culture, to have them with us and our children! Much to busy running our hectic lives to get the latest toys to value them as much as we could? So value what you have for it may pass before you realize it is gone and great will be that loss!

  4. Hey Kim, thanks for your comment. It’s a good thing that Jesus has room in His Kingdom for everyone who trusts Him. It will be more than just singing in a choir though (although probably your singing ability will be greatly improved!). I’m sure the worship in heaven is magnificent now, but He is coming to restore the earth – and I believe there will be plenty for us to do!

  5. This has been my favourite blog post so far, Peter! I enjoyed it and a very truthful look at real life.

  6. And you said I was a “Prolific writer”! Well! Well!

    I still feel in my heart the lack of empathy for the “African Lady”, dying of starvation, and what of the all the children she probably gave all her food to?

    I am pointing no fingers as mine are too dirty to “cast the first stone”! Or even dare pick it up? I get feeling because this happens so often in Africa we become desensitized to death there and because we all don’t wish to confront doing something about it “we just walk by as with man on side of road, only “The Good Samaritan” helped! I know there are many churchs helping as best as funds permit, including ours, but I still see trillions being spent on war when just a fraction would cure proverty and disease threw-out the world?

    Yes I look at world threw Rose-Colored Glasses” AND I hope you do as well! What Am I going to do about it? Perhaps a prayer? Prehaps you can help me find another way? Prehaps I will go Sunday and submit my request to do “a dollar a day Program” at my church. As Issac from our church’s life group stated you can’t help the whole world but you can help those near you or just a few and if I help one and he another then prehaps one by one something will finally be done to see this happens a little less often and some day threw “Rose Colored Glasses” we may all see the end of starvation? Imagine?

    I know Christ will find a way to change this unhumanity and I pray for his coming soon so we may not look upon this tragedy and injustice of life any further!

  7. Certainly one of the ways we can represent Jesus’ priorities is by serving the poor …. None of us is responsible for everything but we can all do something. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might”. At the same time, Jesus doesn’t want us to be consumed with guilt over things we can’t control. When He comes, He will set everything right. In the meantime He calls us to practice justice, love kindness and walk humbly with him (Micah 6:6-8).

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