One of my first students at Independent Studies was a senior named John Evans. I was told that he had a rare form of incurable cancer and had already outlived his prognosis. At the time, John's primary interests were outdoor, hunting, fishing, hiking--anything but reading Shakespeare and Dickens. He loved the wilds of Montana and fly fishing in frigid water. Camouflage was his favorite color, and his truck his prize possession. Pain was his constant companion, and he eventually became addicted to the narcotics designed to ease his agony as tumors surrounded his spine.
After graduation (and earning his Eagle Scout rank), John went to rehab to kick the addiction. About that same time, John got serious about his faith. Really serious. Profoundly serious.
For the next two years, John studied his Bible with the same passion he once took hunting and fishing. He started seminary courses, and spoke to everyone he could about the purpose of praise and of life as a believer in Jesus. His pain didn't lessen; it intensified. His bones became brittle, and he withered away as flesh dissolved.
As his body broke down, John's spirit grew. He became a mighty warrior in prayer and praise. Early morning musings led him closer to God, and he tottered between earth and heaven. He told his parents that his greatest longing was to wash up on the shores of heaven, unrecognizable to even the angels, but known to Jesus still.
In daily life, John saw angels as easily as humans, and grew frustrated that no one else did. He led worship services from his bed, and remarked, "Church is not about where we meet or who plays the instrument or who speaks- it is about meeting God in His holy place."
One of his Facebook statuses in early November was, "Rounding third, focused on home." He told his family to be prepared. And he praised God.
This morning, John knelt to pray, as was his habit. He called for his mother and told her, "I get to go." The phrase that usually means a trip or vacation or event, John called up to announce his time in this world would end. Within just a couple of hours, with his family with him, John went to be with Jesus.
1 Corinthians 13:12 says, "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." Today, John moved from the shadowy realm of this mirrored world to full understanding and true living.
For several days I have had an old song by Billy Sprague running in and out of my conscious mind. The chorus says,
Bow your heads for those who weep
But be glad for the one who sleeps
In the Lord.
He's been rescued from the deep
Like Ishmael upon the sea....
Only "Time's brief masquerade
Stands between the living
And the ones who wait...at Heaven's gate.
John is no longer torn between two worlds, but he has joined that great cloud of witnessess of Hebrews 12. His life is part of the great hall of faith, and his joy is complete.
Well done, my friend. Well Done.
For the One Who Sleeps, Words and Music by Billy Luz Sprague from the recording Torn Between Two Worlds, 1989