And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment . . . – Hebrews 9:27
The wife realizes her husband has been unfaithful and believes it’s because he fears death. So she looks him in the eye and says, “I just want you to know no matter what you do, you’re gonna die, just like everybody else.”
It’s a favorite line from Moonstruck, a favorite movie. In the real world, each one of us makes choices throughout our lives based on our fear of death.
Recently I suggested to my son – whose age, birth order and marital status I’ve been sworn to withhold – we go together next summer to swim with the dolphins at Discovery Cove.
“Wait, don’t they have sharks there too? Don’t you swim with them?’ he asked.
“Yes, but they’re not the dangerous kind. They’re totally safe,” I assured him.
“Are you telling me that some shark dentist removes all the teeth from the sharks? So what are they going to do? Gum me to death? There’s no such thing as a shark dentist! I’M NOT SWIMMING WITH SHARKS! NO!” he responded with an escalating sense of panic. My laughter did not assuage his panic.
An empathetic mother, I spent several days laughing at him – until we were on our way to a college graduation that took us past the newly opened Orlando Eye, a 400-foot-tall observation wheel so imposing that my palms literally sweat as I pass by.
“I’ll make a deal with you,” my son said. “I’ll swim with sharks with you if you go on the Orlando Eye with me.”
“NO!!!” I shouted as I struggled to keep my sweaty palms on the wheel.
“Why? It’s perfectly safe, you know,” my son said calmly.
“Because it would break when I got on it, and I would get stuck at the top for hours, and I would DIE!” I answered less calmly.
No reasoning or safety statistics could alter either of our positions. Our phobias held fast. The fear is real, my friends. Despite it, I can assure you both my son and I know where we’ll spent eternity – that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). This is true for all whose faith is solidly in Christ alone.
As we cling to what is known – this familiar tent on this familiar orb – I cannot help but believe God will give us sufficient grace in that final hour.
Legendary evangelist Dwight L. Moody’s last words are evidence of such grace: “I see earth receding; Heaven is approaching. God is calling me. This is my triumph. This is my coronation day. It is glorious. God is calling, and I must go.”
He gave such grace to Jesus and the martyr Stephen, who each begged their Father to forgive their murderers. And He will give such grace to you and me – at the right time and in the right measure.
Until that moment, my palms may continue to sweat at the thought of boarding a giant Ferris wheel. Until that moment, my son may run and hide at the mention of swimming with sharks. But at that moment, we will each receive the perfect peace from our perfect God, who will summon us from imperfection to perfection. Yes, Lord, lead us ever higher!