“…But I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect – life in its fullness until you overflow.” John 10:10b The Passion Translation
Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! Psalm 90:12 The Message
“The trick is to enjoy life. Don’t wish away days waiting for better ones ahead.” Unknown
It was a quiet Sunday evening. The big brown chair in my living room embraced me like two loving arms and cradled me. I was relaxing in front of the television when the phone rang. I checked the caller ID to see that the call was from my friend in Cleveland. We had not spoken with each other in a few weeks and I elated to hear from him.
But the voice on the other end was not my friend’s. Immediately I knew.
“My father passed away yesterday morning. . .”
My heart sank, and pools of tears filled my eyes.
“He always spoke of you — of how much you encouraged and inspired him. Your friendship meant a lot to him. You inspired him to fight.”
I was stunned. Yes, I knew he was sick. He had been battling a rare form of cancer for well over two years. The last time we’d spoken, he sounded better than he had in a long while. He was in a place of peace and filled with a hope and faith that made my heart swell. I prayed with him; we both expected to see God do the miraculous.
“He was a good man and a very good friend. I’ll miss him. I am praying for you and the rest of your family,” I managed to say.
I hung up the phone and wept.
I rest in the fact that my friend knew Jesus Christ. I had watched him over the years grow in his relationship with God. We often spoke of that process of growing in grace and coming to know the Lord in a more intimate way. We prayed together and encouraged one another to find that place in God where He truly is all.
I believe in sickness he found that place. I’d heard in him a deeper faith and deeper intimacy with the Lord in the months that followed his diagnosis.
I rest in the fact that he is not in pain. I am reminded of the words I heard years ago: “Death, for the believer, is the final healing.”
But I am saddened.
I am saddened at the loss of my good friend. Though he lived nearly five hours away and we didn’t see each other often, we talked frequently. He made me laugh. He made me think. He challenged me. He corrected me. He inspired me. And while we had the testing times that all friendships face, we emerged from them knowing that God had knitted our hearts together in love.
I am saddened by the awareness that there are many things we will not experience together. I’ll never taste the award-winning white chili he bragged on; he’ll never taste the incomparable dressing I boasted of. We’ll never see who would reign as king of air hockey. I’ll never see his ballroom dancing – one of the things he loved so much. He won’t hear me sing again. We’ll never travel to the mission field together as we had talked about.
Winston’s death stirred something deep in me that I pray I never shake. It was a defining moment of sorts. The older I get the more acutely aware I am of the tenuousness and preciousness of life. And while we continue to stand in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and believe that He will satisfy us with long life (Psalm 91:16), we really don’t know the number of our days. There are things we cannot, should not, must not put off until tomorrow.
Winston’s life and death serve to remind me – to remind us all – to live fearlessly, to take deep breaths inhaling and then exhaling love, laughter, joy, grace.
No dreams put on hold! No words left unsaid! No love withheld! No “I wish I had”!
What a magnificent gift God has given us in Christ Jesus – Abundant Life!! There is no rewind button! There are no do-overs! This is it! And it is grand, and filled with wonder and promise. Despite the challenges, it is so worth the living! I am determined to lay down each night knowing I unwrapped the gift of life for that day and explored all the wonderful possibilities, tasted the beauty of it, made a difference, and honored God simply by living wisely, living well and having no regrets!