My mom's childhood friend, Joyce, went to be with Jesus this past weekend. She wasn't old enough to die, not by the standards of our medically advanced society. Just one day short of sixty-three. Not old enough at all, especially when many of the most precious people in my life fall in the same age category. Not young, not middle-aged, exactly...but definitely not "old".
And since I'm not in the center of the emotional fireball of loss (she was, after all, my mom's friend, not mine), I have a unique perspective on what is most definitely a tragedy for all those that loved Joyce. I'm filled with, shall I say....a "reflective sorrow". Not agony. Not pain. Just sadness for my mom, who lost a life-long friend, for Joyce's husband Tom, who lost a wife of forty years, and for Joyce's sons, their families, and her brothers and sisters and friends.
And because my emotions aren't overriding my every thought and action, I can see beneath the very real pain of the situation and find an overwhelming sense of joy and awe.
Because Joyce loved Jesus. She believed in His death and resurrection, His atonement for her sins. She professed Him as her Savior. And since this past Saturday, she's been "reJOYCEing" in His presence in Heaven. There is no place on Earth that could compare with the splendor that Joyce is living in at this moment. She is wrapped in beauty and love and light and laughter and harmony and inexplicable joy. And that leaves me in awe.
Last night, on the way out to my parents' house, three-year-old Mr.C and I had a talk about Heaven:
"Someday, I'm gonna go to Heaven and live with Jesus, too. But not yet. Not till I'm really, really old. Then we can go together, right, Mama?"
"Yep. Mama loves Jesus. Do you love Jesus, too?"
"Yep! I love Jesus!"
"And you know that sometimes you do bad things and Jesus died for the bad things you do...so you can live with Him in Heaven someday. Do you believe that Jesus died for you, buddy?"
"Yep! I believe that! And there are no bad guys in Heaven."
"Well...what if the bad guys changed their minds and decided to love Jesus? Then they could go to Heaven, too."
"But they're BAD GUYS!!!"
"But sometimes we do bad things....and we still love Jesus. Jesus died for everybody! We want everybody...even bad guys...to learn about Jesus and to change their minds so they can come to Heaven, too. Right?"
"Oh...okay. They can come. And they can still keep their swords, too."
We spent the evening with my parents, hopefully providing a bit of a distraction for a while. On the way home, little Mr. C said that it was sad that Joyce had passed away, and he thought we should pray for her. I reminded him that Miss Joyce is in Heaven, and she doesn't need us to ask Jesus to help her because she's with Jesus! But, I said, it was important to remember to pray for Mr. Tom. Mr. Tom is very sad, and we should pray that he lets Jesus love him and help him feel better. I told Mr. C that we should remember to pray for Mr. Tom at bedtime.
And do you know what he said?
"We should do it right now."
Wow. Humbled, I realized that he was exactly right. What was I waiting for? Right there in the car, at the urging of a three-year-old child, we prayed for Mr. Tom.
And I realized something else. There's a lot of wisdom in a three-year-old.
All without questioning.
He asks for what he wants, and he has faith that he will receive it.
He doesn't put off until later things that are important enough to do now.
More than many adults I know, Mr. C really gets it.
So...in the wake of an unexpected death, the home going of someone who was too young but who knew where her true home was, I feel compelled to ask you...where is your true home?
Like my little son, have you heard the Good News? Have you accepted it at face value, not trying to use your own wisdom to figure things out by yourself? Have you placed your faith in Christ Jesus? Do you love Him?
And if not, if you're waiting for some perfect opportunity or for everything to suddenly make sense to you, then why don't you just ask God to reveal the truth to you? Earnestly ask (even if you're not sure that He exists) that He would make Himself known to you. That He would prove Himself. Humble yourself to the possibility that what that ancient book of fables says is true. What could it hurt?
You should do it right now.
Because whether you're sixty-three or thirty-three or even just three, you never know which day could be your last.
P.S. If you're a bad guy, don't worry. I am, too. And I'm bringing my sword with me.
And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
And for Joyce:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4
See you in Heaven.