There are five living men profiled alongside the deceased guys’ portraits as well. I never knew any of them personally and I probably never will; especially since I live in South Africa now. You may have guessed who they all are; they are the Presidents of the United States. Caleb, Jake and I will be involved with these 44 men in a yearlong study. The boys are eager to learn about them all; both dead and alive. And it’s neat for me to share in their excitement.
For the past two weeks, I have been thinking more about the concept of life and death. Hence, the reason for my description of the US Presidents; both dead and alive. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I’ve been reading the first two chapters of Philippians. Paul writes about his own thoughts about what it means to live and to die for Christ. Check out some of his words about himself…
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. Philippians 1:20 NIV
For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 NIV
I am torn between the two (life and death): I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Philippians 1:23 NIV
Then he wrote these words about Jesus Christ…
And being found in the appearance of man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8 NIV
It’s this last verse that particularly gets to me. Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death. He gave into death and offered himself completely over to it. Granted, Jesus understood that His mission was complete.
However, for me, I can’t say I’m there. Not. At. All.
Since cancer struck me in 2012, I’ve been more focused on living on earth and living for my family than dying. I didn’t want to die back then. And in all honesty, I don’t want to die now. However, there are niggling reminders of my cancer experience that keep death in the dark reaches of my mind. There are the telltale scars of course. However, there are also the lingering effects of a low grade lymphodema in my right forearm. I’ve been especially aware of this condition during these high temperature Jo’burg days we’ve experienced recently. My right forearm does not like heat anymore. In fact, to voice its displeasure, my arm sends out signals of discomfort, pain and swelling. It is difficult to complete some of my daily tasks and it makes typing in particular, a strain.
There are other pains. Remnants of scar tissues and radiation after effects also cause low grade discomfort from time to time. Each prick of pain, each display of swelling, and each scar serve as reminders for me. I’m still alive to feel and see them.
So when I read Paul’s words about feeling torn between life and death, and to read his description of our Savior being obedient to death, I confess that I don’t want to go there. Not yet.
For me, I want to live and not just live in a way that I’m going through the motions, but live for Christ in every possible way I can. Some days are better in that regard than others. But I’m still here to give it my best shot!
Paul also wrote to the Philippians, “Convinced of this (continued life), I know that I will remain and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me” (NIV, Philippians 1:25-26).
Truth be told, I have no idea how much longer I’m here. Experiencing cancer has made me more cognizant of my eventual mortality. Yet, for now, like Paul, I remain. I will continue to do what I can for the honor and praise of my Savior. I will continue to love my husband and my children; serving them with joy. I will continue to teach my kids about the US Presidents, both dead and alive. I will continue to share the hope and encouragement I find in Christ and pray with great humility that others will find a measure of joy and blessing in Him on account of me. What a privilege that is!
It’s true that I still have my aches. I still have my pains. I still have the reminder that cancer entered my life and left its mark. I still wonder if it will come back. Whether it does or not, I pray that one day I’ll be ready to be obedient to death as my Savior was for me when my mission on earth is complete. For now I know, I’m just not that obedient yet. In the meantime, I’ll strive to live in such a way that He is exalted in my body and life. And continue to be grateful for the time I still have and the stinging sensations and discomfort I feel.
Photo by Resting Place Church of Flickr