Sunday, August 1, 2010

Life and Death

Campbell Isabel Ogden (Double bell or double B)

With her mom

The family of five

Campbell with "Coach"

In all of her glory

This past Monday, July 26th, my oldest daughter gave birth to her third child and first girl named Campbell Isabella Ogden. While it was an incredible time and I was overwhelmed as I always am with the miracle of new life, this birth was tempered by tragedy elsewhere. You see my good friend's daughter was also pregnant (with twins) and the day before Campbell's birth we found out she had lost both of them. There are no words to describe the pain she and her husband felt as well as both sides of the extended family. And likewise there are no answers.

Now I am not going to approach this philosophically or theologically. There are those who do that and need to do so, but this is up close and personal and I am going to treat it a such. Before you read further, don't expect to get all of the answers because I do not have them. I am only giving my thoughts based on my life experiences and my relationship with my friend and his daughter. First let me say that I am so proud of all of them for the grace and dignity with which they have handled this heartache. Fortunately they are all believers and they have pressed in to God during this time for peace and comfort. And from what I hear from the family, they have received just that. When people experience personal tragedy, they can either be angry with God and turn away from Him or they can press further into Him and experience a richness of relationship they had never experienced before. Two years ago I would have said the same thing but it would have all been theory, though based on Scripture. And two years ago I would have felt guilty that my daughter had a healthy child while my friend did not. But all of that changed last year as I went through the darkness of suffering (for those of you who do not know, read past blogs). I was able to see firsthand that God really does meet us in our time of need. He is there to comfort and He brings us peace even in the midst of it. But even moreso He brings more of Himself, a deepening of our relationship with Him and an increased sense of His presence.

Death is a different and deeper kind of suffering. It is so final. In I Cor. 15 Paul asks the rhetorical question "O death where is your sting?" and many have tried to use this to comfort people in mourning. But he is talking about the end times where death has finally been defeated. Right now death does sting and it constantly reminds us of the fallenness of this world. Having just experienced the death of my 88 year old mother a few weeks ago, I am well aware of the cycle of life. The joy of a new birth takes a little bit of the sting out of a recent death. But the death of an elderly mother who had lived a beautiful and full life is much different than the death of a child, an infant or a preborn. Thus the cycle of life makes the death of a preborn so much more difficult to handle. Where is the joy in exchange for the death? As I said, I do not have all of the answers. I only know in Whom the answers lie. In situations like this I often think that when I get to heaven I will ask God the whys, and that may yet happen. But the deeper I grow in my own relationship with Jesus the more I realize that when I get there and see Him that all of my questions will be moot.

That then brings me to the other side of the coin which is life. It is something that is sacred and should be highly valued. It is the very breath of God which He has breathed into us and is a gift from Him. Our culture has been on a relentless course of devaluing life through such things as abortion, euthanasia and some of our laws. We should never take life for granted because it is so precious and can be taken from us at any time. I never realized that as much as I did last year when I had my bypass surgery. With three 99% blockages I could easily have died during any one of many runs or tennis matches, and it was only by the grace of God that I am still alive. But at the same time we should not hold on to life too tightly. As precious as it is, it is only a foreshadowing of what is to come and this is not our true home. Paul has a good handle on this in his famous passage in Phil. chapter 1 where he says "to live is Christ and to die is gain". If we hold on to life too tightly, it can become an entrapment and essentially an idol pulling us away from God.

So in conclusion, life is special and new life is beautiful, but death is real and it can be very ugly. Our job which is a slippery prospect, is to value the former without holding on too tight while acknowledging the reality of the latter but not being fearful or like those without hope.