My heart begins to feel the familiar ache as I watch the nurse finish up her nightly rounds. Desperately wanting to talk but a conversation nowhere to be found. I guess they just stopped, stopped trying, stopped caring for the small talk. It seems that the exchanging of words with the terminally ill finally lost its good cheer.
The sickness isn’t even the worst part; it’s how they look at me. The haunting stare letting me know that every second I inch closer and closer to death. Pitying the patient dancing hand in hand with the infinite abyss. Showing me the same compassion that they bestowed on all the other ones who occupied this same bed before me. At the end of their shifts they all get to be free, while I stay attached to lines in this room waiting for the medication to comfort me.
They get to go home to people they love while I lay here wondering where the God is they say watches from above. I pass the agonizing hours reliving the past, feeling as though it took place a lifetime ago. My thoughts seem foreign and distorted, as though viewed through a stranger’s perspective. I don’t even know who I am anymore.
I remember the sensation that I felt when I found the Lord, the joy now leaving me every time the doctors walked out the door. I remembered the way the church smelled every Sunday night, now I was only surrounded by the stench of powerful cleaners and my own fright. Replaying the sermons over and over again in my head. Reflecting on the hope I had for a future that would soon be struck dead. I had inherited the cancerous genes that were multiplying at an alarming rate inside of me.
First, I had accepted it and was at peace. Then I began to grow restless, inviting the anger and rage to come and cloud my vision like a poisonous haze. Screaming at God in my dismay, wondering what I had done to earn a debt this great to repay.
I come back to reality as the nurse gives me a short smile, reminding me not to forget to take the pills that she left on my tray in a neat little pile. With that she leaves, just walks away. Abandoning me to the hopeless thoughts that seem to be stuck on replay. My view is drawn towards the bible collecting dust on the windowsill. Its tiny silver cross illuminated by the moon’s glowing light.
A memory quickly races by containing the moment I had decided the same cross to be a crutch I no longer needed when the news that I was going to die became too much. I had turned my back on a savior who seemed to first turn his on me. No longer could I see grace, my eyes grew blind when the medication had taken away my taste.
Then, suddenly from somewhere deep inside my heart came an urge to open it and steal a few glances. Perhaps it would reignite a long-lost flame that would improve my chances. Give me better odds, put my soul at rest knowing the love they say he has isn’t a complete fraud. I reach out to pick it up and catch my reflection in the window. A wave of dread hits as I see sunken hollow eyes staring back at me. A tormented look twisting across my face accusing me of trying to hurt myself even more by placing my faith in what would seem to be a false hope.
An attempt was made to convince me that instead of trying to find a way to escape my written fate, I should be wise and tighten my grip around the sorrow and hate. The empty shell tried showing me how much good these two things have done already. How they comforted me when the chemical treatments caused me to lose my hair. Followed by the hardening of my heart, numbing me to the pain of my energy and positive thinking leaving together as a pair. Finally, depression, which brought my family great misery and despair, creating a rift between us. The farther I sank in the darkness, the less I could see what truly mattered to me.
I try to shake away these dark ideas as I become aware that it’s the serpent whispering in my ear. Bringing my attention back to the holy book resting open in my hands I read a single sentence and am utterly leveled by what it says.
“For he himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
In an instant everything made sense. God’s intention was to never destroy, but to build up instead. Oh, me of little faith, why couldn’t I see the most important lesson of my life that he had hand-prepared for me? The Lord wanted to teach me that when something terrible comes our way it shouldn’t shake our faith and cause us to sway. That when fear replaces the joy of knowing the Creator it shows that our hearts are buried deep within the world’s favor.
Who was I to hold on to a life that could be lost so easily? A life that wasn’t even mine when I recklessly abandoned it into the hands of the Lord. I didn’t see the good work that he wanted to finish in me. I had to look past my own understanding and place all my trust in him.
My vision begins to flicker as I suddenly feel weak. Turning my head towards the monitors I see that my vitals have been dropping and are now dangerously low. I can feel the flow of life starting to slow. Time seems to stand still. The last sound I hear is the alarm alerting the staff that I was knocking on death’s door. The nurses rush in and try to save me, but I know it is pointless for this is the end. With what little strength I have left I muster together one final prayer.
“Lord, before I leave, before I slip away.
I want to say I’m sorry for causing your heart so much pain.
For doubting you and making you watch me give up.
Forgive me for wrongly placing the blame.
I’m sorry that I didn’t get it, that I didn’t pass the test.
Please look past my iniquities and allow my spirit to find rest.
To find rest in you, my loving king.
Please come and claim your bride even though I lost the wedding ring.”
With my final breath I pass on into eternity. Instead of seeing the judgment throne I’m standing behind the doctor’s watching as they try to resuscitate my now vacant body. I notice that my spirit is not alone, before even looking at him I can feel his presence of peace overwhelming my new senses. Slowly turning my head, I see that standing next to me is Jesus the Christ, the king of kings. He faces me and smiles, his being radiating a holy light that would’ve blinded me if I still had mortal eyes. Then a feeling that surpasses all understanding washed over me as I heard him speak. His voice containing all authority on earth, in heaven, and far below.
“My son, my wonderful son. How long I have waited to see you. Waiting to show you the place that I have been preparing for you to eternally call home. To be with you forever.”
He offers his hand for me to take hold of. I stare at it dumbfounded. Looking at him, then back to his outstretched hand.
“But lord,” I ask. “What about all the wretched things that I have done? For spitting in your face and giving my heart away to disgrace?”
His smile begins to widen as if what I just said amuses him.
“My child, through my blood all is forgiven. I have seen your hearts repentance. Did you think I did not know that you would fail? I knew the things you were going to do from the very start. I was never going to abandon you. When you turned your back on me I pursued you because I wanted to be the first thing you saw when you realized running away from me was foolish and decided to turn back around. Just waiting for a chance to lift up your spirit from the cold, dirty ground. Now come my beloved, take my hand.”
Taking one last look at my body I watch as the doctors finish confirming the time of death. I was free, free from the clutches of the world. No more burdens, no more sorrows. No more tears and lonely nights spent thinking I was all alone.
I grab hold of my Redeemer’s hand and in a brilliant flash of light I am transported to the outskirts of heaven. Standing in front of the crystal gates towering higher than any eye could see. They begin to open, and in the distance, I see the New Jerusalem. Then I hear the Lord say “Welcome home.” Before stepping inside, I finally realize what is meant when we are in the world that we are merely passing through. That our true destination is the Kingdom. As the gates slowly close behind me it becomes clear that the real journey was only beginning.