Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dying Young

What is the worst tragedy that could happen to a human? Is it dying young, or is there something worse that could happen? In his book, “Screwtape Letters,” author C.S. Lewis creates fictional correspondence between two devils: a senior, more experienced evil spirit named Screwtape; and his young, inexperienced understudy named Wormwood. In Screwtape’s “Letter No. 28,” Screwtape lays out for Wormwood why it is better, from the devil’s point of view, that humans be “kept safe” and be allowed to live as long as possible. According to Screwtape, middle age is an ideal time for temptation because a human might succumb to temptation through one of two forms: through despair, by reason of one’s self-determined failure; or comfort, if a man or woman achieves worldly success. With regard to the later temptation, Lewis says “…prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is “finding his place in it,” when really it is finding its place in him….You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old.” Lewis, Screwtape Letters, 143. Had Micah lived a full life, would he have succumbed to the temptation to despair by reason of unfilled dreams? Or would he have been, in Lewis’s words, “knit to the world” because of worldly success? As much as we miss Micah in our home, we know that he is without the daily disappointments that accompany living on earth. Micah has been released from the thousands of heartaches, temptations and maladies he would have otherwise experienced on a daily basis had he lived a “full” life on earth. Instead, we are certain that Micah suffers no lack of joy now, in His presence. The Psalmist proclaims, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11. One of the blessings of Micah’s unexpected death has been the recurring emphasis to make Micah’s current joy my own joy. In other words, since Micah’s death has in no way diminished his opportunity to make the greatest possible joy (God) his own, we must seek to avoid the temptation to “make ourselves at home in the world” and instead do what we must in order to make God our greatest joy. The worst tragedy is not dying young; it is losing sight of Jesus, one’s greatest possible joy.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Giving our Children to the Lord

This past Sunday, Heather and I were blessed with the opportunity to dedicate our third son, Brendan, during our church’s child dedication service. Just as we had done with Micah and Owen, we committed to raise Brendan to know and treasure Jesus Christ above all else. Among other words of dedication, we stated that we would “…release all worldly claims upon Brendan’s life, in the hope that Brendan would belong wholly to God forever.” These words have become so meaningful to us, having been spoken by Pastor Kenny twice over Micah (once at his dedication, once as we removed Micah’s life support and he died) and now once over each of our two living children. In reading the book of 1 Samuel recently, I had occasion to reflect upon the act of dedicating our children to God. In the first chapter of 1 Samuel, we are told that Hannah, despite her strong desire to have children, was not able to do so. Hannah vowed that if the Lord chose to provide her a son, she would “give” the child to the Lord. Once Hannah received the gift of a son, Samuel, she fulfilled her earlier vow. Once she had weaned Samuel, she brought him to the temple, and gave him in service to the high priest Eli, “so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.” (1 Samuel 1:22) We shouldn’t be surprised that the Lord looked favorably upon Hannah and Samuel. While his mother Hannah had three more sons and two daughters (1 Sam 2:21) we are told that Samuel himself “continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man.” (1 Sam 2:26). In Hannah’s case, she understood that she received the gift of Samuel only because God had chosen to answer her prayers. She had no “worldly claims” upon Samuel’s life. In fact, whether we dedicate our children or not, and whether we believe it or not, all of our children belong to the Lord. Having lost Micah like we did, we have an acute awareness of how fragile life is and how our children’s lives are truly in the Lord’s hands, to do with as He wills. Do we truly believe that, or are we exerting “worldly claims” upon the lives of our children? As in Hannah’s case, when we dedicate our children to the Lord, it is not as if we are sacrificing our child’s best interests to a lesser objective. Samuel had a tremendous influence on the history of Israel, all stemming from Hannah’s dedication. In dedicating our children to the Lord, our child’s best interests, and the Glory of God, are one and the same.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

8 Months and 28 Days

Today we passed another milestone of sorts. Just as we have seen our second son, Owen, outlive his older brother Micah, so also our youngest, Brendan, has now lived longer on earth than his oldest brother. Today, May 6th, Brendan turns 8 month and 28 days, the exact age that Micah was when he died. A few weeks ago, I spent about two late-night hours holding Brendan, who was sick and not able to sleep. Perhaps because of this upcoming milestone, I felt blessed that night just to hold him close, listen to his voice, and compare him with his oldest brother. They look so much the same: the wide grin, the blue eyes, the near-white blonde hair. They are both gentle in spirit, pleased to just giggle and take all of life in. Our earthly lifetimes are certainly too short of a timeframe to begin to understand all of the possible ramifications of each of our lives, including Micah’s. But I am increasingly certain of one implication, to me personally, of Micah’s death. I am so grateful, and so appreciative to God, for every waking moment with our two younger boys. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4. Who are we to receive these blessings from God? Everything is grace. Nothing is deserved. Everything is extra. Nothing is owed to me. Will you give your living kids an extra hug, knowing what an extra privilege you have to parent living children?