"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope" -I Thess. 4:13
Goodbyes aren't much fun. There are some exceptions I guess. Saying goodbye to the dentist, a bad cold or a bad relationship can be satisfying. But for the most part, goodbyes are difficult because they are usually to things and people we care about.
This month, we said goodbye to three outstanding men of God that have been rocks for the Branson community and for the faith. Though we all know they're in a better place, so well deserved, we still miss them terribly. Their deaths leave a huge void in all our hearts.
In the Academy Award winning movie, Out of Africa, there is a scene between the Baron and Karen that describes how most of us feel about saying goodbye. He is leaving to go hunting and she gives her husband a halfhearted kiss. Baron Bror Blixen comments, "That's a fine kiss goodbye.” Karen Blixen responds, "I'm better at hello.”
Most of us prefer hello. I remember my dad, an obstetrician, saying, "One of the things I like most about my job is getting to bring babies into the world instead of being a doctor that works to keep people from leaving this world.” We certainly need all kinds of doctors, but welcoming life is more joyful than saying goodbye to it.
But of course, that depends on how you define "life and death." Another thing my dad used to say was "there are a lot of things worse than dying.” Growing up, I was never quite sure what he meant by that, but the older I get, the more I understand. Dying, as a Christ-follower, is really living. And living, without hope, is dead.
Jack Purvis, Jerry Lilley and Ed Williams were all outstanding men of God who loved their families and their Lord. Yes, they were successful in the world's eyes, but mostly, they were successful in the eyes of the Lord. They were selfless, giving and friendly. They loved and served their Savior, Jesus Christ. He was their source of strength. And the three of them are having a total blast in the presence of God. Second Corinthians 5:8 says "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."
I'm not exactly sure how heaven works, but it's real and it's there and it's wonderful.
So we say goodbye. James 4:13-14 reminds us that life is short, very short. "Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away".
We need to remember that it's okay to plan, but not too far. Plan for today not tomorrow, because tomorrow may not ever come. Life is so, so short. We need to focus on the things that matter. We need to focus on family. We need to focus on people. We need to focus on God.
That's what Jack, Jerry and Ed did and so many lives were changed because they made that choice. They lived like there wasn't a tomorrow and it made their today an awesome privilege.
Goodbye my three brothers and thank you for the example you leave us. May you enjoy what you deserve…
To be in the very presence of God.
By Eric Joseph Staples ©