Things have been nuts-o around here. You too? We've had all sorts of Christmas programs, business trips, school volunteer jobs, illness, meetings, gatherings, shopping, cleaning, wrapping, pushing children through developmental hiccups, and feelings of generally being swallowed whole by life (Jonah-in-the-whale style).
Last Saturday we went to some friends' house for their annual Christmas party. We get together with this family about once per month, but we get to see other mutual friends each year at their Christmas party and sometimes at couples game nights.
This year's Christmas party included the host family, my family, and just three other families. It was really nice. I didn't have that awkwardness that comes whenever I'm required to socialize with people I don't know well.
Yesterday the party host sent a text to Jared and me to let us know that the wife from one of those three families had passed away.
I couldn't believe what I was reading. Our life has been so completely crazy lately that at times I have felt out of touch with reality. I stared at that text and thought surely my mind had cracked under the stress and I was imagining awful things. But then Jared replied (he was on a business trip at the time), and I began to accept that this news was true.
We really don't know much at this point. She died in her sleep, and the cause is unknown. She's roughly my age. She and her husband have three beautiful daughters. She had just been telling me on Saturday about each girl and what parenting them is like right now. The oldest is 13 and is very responsible. This joyful mom told me how lucky they are that their daughter is such a great kid and how she really will be fine through the teen years.
We played a game of Christmas movie trivia, and Jared and I ended up winning the gift brought to the party by this couple whose life is now forever fractured. The gift contained a Christmas potholder that I used to take freshly baked rolls out of my oven today, a Christmas towel, and a Santa candle warmer that is currently lending a warm glow to my kitchen. These items were all purchased by this friend who is suddenly gone.
I don't understand.
I keep thinking about this woman and her family. Are there Christmas gifts that she purchased for her girls? Will her kids open their last gifts from their mom? My mind keeps replaying our time together. I wonder how her husband and children will make it through this Christmas. And maybe every Christmas after.
I can't stop thinking about these people.
And yet there's another thought that is blazing to the forefront of my mind now: this is real. Death is real. People die. Often with no warning at all.
The urgency of talking to people about God is so intensified within me. Anyone whose path I cross could snuggle into bed tonight and wake up in eternity. Have I shown them how to choose where their eternity will be?
My church just finished a series on heaven called Indescribable. Click here to see our previous sermons, and you can go back to the sermons on heaven.
This series reminded me just how real heaven and hell are. Life on this planet really does come to an end, and people really do go to only one of those two places. I've never seen it, but I believe it with everything in me.
Not all people will go to heaven. Not all nice people will go to heaven. The only people who will go to heaven are those who believe the following. God is the one and only God, the one who created all things. God came down to earth in the form of Jesus, a baby who was fully human and fully God, and who was conceived within a faithful woman who was a virgin. Don't try to understand all of that in human terms because God's ways are greater than our ways. Jesus lived on this very earth and did and said all of what is recorded in the Bible. Then He fulfilled the will of God by taking on the sin of all mankind and dying a horribly painful death in order to pay the penalty on our behalf. Because Jesus paid for our sin and defeated death when He rose to life again, He now offers us the opportunity to live in His forgiveness here on earth and then live with Him in heaven for all eternity.
"If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9
The Bible is a treasure trove of words from our God. He doesn't want even one of His children to miss out on the forgiveness He offers. He doesn't want even one of his precious people to choose hell. But He does allow us to choose for ourselves.
If I go to sleep tonight and my earthly body gives out before morning, I am completely certain that I will be safe with my Savior.
Are you certain? Are you confident that you'll go to heaven when you die? What about your family members? Friends? Favorite waitress, grocery cashier, neighbor?
Because this is real.
I believe this so much that I would bet my life on it. In fact, I have.
I know it won't be long before life tries to distract me with scheduling conflicts, family drama, and holiday weight. I need to record this raw moment to help me remember. This is real.