I guess it was hearing about Gary's death that brought this post to existence.
Gary, someone whom I'd barely known, but knew that I liked immensely. I "walked the aisle" with Gary over 15 years ago, as attendants in the wedding of friends we had in common. We'd never spoken before then (he was slightly older, in a different crowd in high school) but the entire event was so much more relaxed and fun because he was on the team of over-dressed people sitting at the big table. Funny, easy to know, and so comfortable in his own skin, his joie de vivre was contagious.
He's dead. I found out recently that he died a few months ago, of an aggressive form of cancer. Just a year or so older than I am. That spark of a person is gone from this place.
There are many people I used to know who've already left this orb. Those who are considerably older than I am still hurt, but don't have the same ability to shock me. It's the people who are my age that feel most unnatural. Like Zane: I still can't believe he's gone. How can someone so alive cease to be alive? Heart attack, I think. And Greg, a person I'd never formally met but whose teenage image lives indelibly in in one of my scrapbooks because he happened to be standing next to an ex-boyfriend at some gathering. Greg was murdered in what appeared to everyone to be a random shooting. I don't believe they've ever caught the killer.
And then, last week, the crazy downpour of rain which led to an unprecedented wall of water that took four lives here in our city. It happened on a stretch of road I've traveled before, not far from some regular stomping grounds of ours (the zoo). Gone. Who could have predicted that tragedy?
I don't want to be a downer. I just feel a strong tugging at my soul that I need to be a voice of truth right now. And the truth is that none of us know when we'll depart this globe. For some, it is far sooner than we ever expected; others, like my husband's going-on-91 grandmother, admit readily that she's stayed longer than she ever thought she would. But the simple fact, courtesy Jim "Jimmy Mo" Morrison, is that no one here gets out alive.
People, if you are reading this, and you don't have a clue what will happen to you when you die, I pray that you'll stop right now and think about it.
I spent more than half my life trying not to think about it. I pushed it away even while two of my high school classmates were snuffed out before finishing college. I ran the other way, pursued stupid things, tried to achieve earthly goals, convinced myself halfheartedly that my fellow humans and I had somehow crawled from slime. I didn't want to appear unworldly, you see. I didn't want to be one of "those people" who blindly follow an invisible God who judges. I didn't want to be responsible. I didn't want to be accountable.
But I was empty, and sad. I made hurtful choices. Like the song says: I was lost.
It's funny how your eyes are opened widest when you are lowest. You're emotionally naked, and you finally take a good, clear, unwavering look around you. It's then that you become aware of a loving presence Who's been waiting, walking beside you, sometimes behind you, but always within arm's reach. Once you acknowledge the presence, you are not the same. Now that the presence is real to me, Jesus is a person I know and not an unachievable ideal. Over time, the idea of people coming from monkeys, let alone muddy water, is utterly inconceivable to me. There's a line from the remake of Charlotte's Web where Fern's mom is asking the doctor whether he thinks Charlotte's web words are a miracle—and the doctor basically reminds her that the web, itself, is a miracle. All of creation reveals a creator. The eye, the ear, alone are unbelievably complex systems. The brain? Beyond explanation. Pollination? Photosynthesis? The fact that we are perfectly distanced from the sun for survival? From the moon to control tides?
Maybe there's one person out there who will read this and really think about it all. If that's you, and you're thinking about it, then please read this, this and this. There is a savior and He loves you, all of us, even when we don't deserve it. He's already given everything for you. Accepting that outstretched hand will change your heart, and the way you think about this world. And this world is a very temporary one.
Bad things still happen. Every day. This small planet can be a pretty evil place, and people will disappoint, fall short, and treat each other unspeakably. I still feel pretty down at times, and there's a lot I don't understand. But it's funny—I find that I need less and less to understand everything. My mind isn't as restless as it used to be. Is it humility? The understanding that even if someone explained it all, I still wouldn't really get it? Has God taken away my troublesome desire to comprehend everything? Either way, it doesn't really matter. What matters is this: I am not the same person that I was before I took that hand. There are days when I cling to the hand, and days when I try to pull away from its stubborn grasp, like a little child trying to extract a sweaty palm so he can stray. But I know there is more than this world, and that I am forgiven and accepted once I leave it. I know that when I wise up, that loving hand will still be there for me. And that's a pretty good feeling, especially in these God-forsaken days.
Next post will be light as a feather. Promise.