He had a squeaky voice and a silly grin, he could be stubborn and annoying, but his friends adored him. He wasn’t just the life of the party; he was the soul of the group, an unlikely and invisible thread that connected the motley crew to each other. His smile could be found on just about any snapshot taken from their glory days in high school. From birthdays to parties to other crazy outings, he was the one you could count on to make you and everyone else around you laugh. He was also the one you could call at any hour on any day, and he would stop what he was doing to talk to you or help you out of whatever mess you found yourself in. He wasn’t perfect, but he was constant. Every group needs a constant.
That was 9 years ago.
Last week that group found themselves together again, for a different kind of gathering. For 3 days straight they huddled in a hospital room and around a bed, willing him to fight, to make it, to pull through. People came from miles to do nothing but endure the immense agony of waiting. The overflow of people had to wait in halls and in the designated waiting areas. Time hit pause and people hit their knees, begging for the life of their friend. When time hit the play button again, their circle became one smile short.
Today, as many celebrate his life, there are still so many unanswered questions. So many what ifs and I wish I would haves and if only I’d knowns. How do we prepare for the empty seat next to us? How do we hush the loud and deafening void that screams the reminder that we now have to do life without you? The truth is, all of us know deep down inside that our days are numbered. The current mortality rate is 100%. We are each given a slip, on the day we are born. What we don’t know is the number on that slip. We just know we want it to be a very big number. Nobody wakes up every morning wishing and planning and hoping for a happy, fun and meaningful life, through the age of 25. Nobody. So how do we cope when someone we know and love gets taken far too early?
It’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s unimaginable.
Over the last week I’ve been asked a lot of questions. Many of these questions, I’ve asked too. A lot of people from a myriad of backgrounds came together and chose to hold on to hope and to each other. Some put aside past differences and collectively asked God for a miracle. What a testimony it could have been if God had said ok! But He didn’t. Did God miss an opportunity? Or did we not have enough faith?
One of things I’ve been struggling to reconcile in my heart and head is the idea of having faith and being faithful.
I think all of us, to some degree, have faith. Big, small, boring, exciting, some type of faith. But having faith and being faithful is not the same thing. Psalm 100 says that the Lord’s faithfulness endures to all generations. It has no beginning; it has no end. It is constant. It is eternal.
Let’s talk about eternity for just a second. (Because that’s about all we handle on the subject.) Our minds are not equipped to fully grasp the measure of eternity, because everything around us is built around a measure of time. Try this. Stop for a moment and think about how long eternity will be. A thousand years. Ten thousand years. Ten million years. And that much again. And then, again. Our minds can go on and on imagining the length and height and breadth and width of eternity until we get a text message and have to reply back really quick, or until the microwave dings to tell us that our leftover pizza from last night’s TWD party is ready. Just like that, we move on to the next thing. Our days have a beginning and an end. Even our thoughts have a beginning and an end. Everything does! It takes 22 minutes to wash a load of towels and 8 minutes to take a shower. It takes 59 minutes to watch one episode of Fixer Upper and 2 minutes to purchase the large metal sign from Episode 4 (I know, I timed it last week). I can get through the line at Starbucks in 5 minutes and as much as I want a beautiful sunset to last a little bit longer, it doesn’t. Even the earth bows to the clock.
Everything we do is measured by a portion of time.
Here’s how my mind reconciles (or tries to, anyway) time and eternity, of having faith and being faithful. The capsule of my life is like a grain of sand somewhere lodged inside billions and billions of galaxies. Just writing that makes me dizzy. My circumstances and having faith in the midst of those circumstances is an atom on that grain of sand. On the other side, God’s faithfulness extends from beginning to end (which, we have discovered, doesn’t really have a beginning or an end), around the length and height and breadth and width of those billions and billions of galaxies. Time is a created thing; God is not. So, asking Him for things is part of having faith. But even when I don’t get the thing I ask for, it doesn’t make Him unfaithful. He is faithful, through all generations. Inside and outside of time. His very word says that He cannot be anything other than faithful.
All of this? Somehow He makes it all work together for our good, and for His glory. This life that we’ve been given doesn’t end when we take our final breath. We are eternal! When we have a relationship with Him, when we put our fragile faith in Him, death becomes a doorway to step into the real party, into Eternity – in Heaven, with Him.
If you’re reading this, and if your heart is broken from the immense sorrow of loss, my prayer for you is that you will get a glimpse of the bigger picture. The one with the billions and billions of galaxies and you somewhere inside it, all being held together by two very powerful hands. Putting your faith in God isn’t risky. It’s actually the smartest thing you can ever do. You may not get the answer you are earnestly seeking but you can trust the One who sees the entire picture and who is faithful in His plan to restore all things back together, one day soon. He is holding together more than you could possibly imagine. And He promises to hold you together when your world has just unraveled.
This week my tiny human came over for a visit. We laughed and played for a while and when her mama told her it was time to leave, she said, “Please, can I have one more 5 minutes?”
May we each get in all the one more 5 minutes we can, with those who occupy precious space our hearts. And today, may our faith be strengthened in the One who is faithful, forever.