Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Life, Death, and the Hiding Place

"It's a matter of life and death. . .  Life is short. . .  Live like you are dying."

These phrases roll off the tongue like water off a duck's back. We either use them without thinking or use them thinking they might inspire. It's not that they are not true and worthy sayings. It's just that their overuse lessens their impact.

In the last two weeks, an equal number of young people in our circle of friends have died; Kristie Kitts and Peter Thorton. Kristie, a bright and promising nursing student was on her way to work early one Sunday morning when the car hit a patch of icy road. Her car careened over the embankment, Kristie thrown about like a ragdoll. She did not survive the impact.

Peter, an effervescent young man, was chatting with a friend out on the balcony of the house. The railing gave way, both friends plummeting to the ground. Peter's fall was fatal.

Both Kristie and Peter spent time with our family. Kristie often came to visit and share a meal when her boyfriend was living with us. Peter was our neighbor when we lived up in the Boonsboro area. Seth, our son, and Peter must have been cut out of the same mold: fearless with a side of reckless. They did what most boys do, but even more so. They rode dirt bikes, adventured in the woods, raced lawn movers and go-carts up and down the driveway, spent hours twilight sledding down the big hill whenever snow fell, cut trails through the woods, and wiled away the time down by the lake. Those were good days.

I sat beside Seth at Peter's memorial service yesterday. The grim reality of the gathering was palpable. The church was packed in support of the family, the only remaining seats in the choir loft. Gary and I, along with Seth and Claire (his girlfriend) walked the center isle of the sanctuary, climbing the stairs to our seats. Once seated, I took in the beauty of the church, massive, interlocking timbers sculpted into place. I noted the uniquely arched doorway at the back of the room, thinking how it could beautifully frame a wedding couple. The sanctuary's shape was that of a "t". Or perhaps the layout was intended to be a symbolic cross, so appropriate for its function.

As I scanned the solemn faces in the pews, I wondered about each one's connections to Peter. I assumed the older set were friends of Danny and Melissa, Peter's parents. One section, in the alcove to my left, sat young people in their twenties, undoubtedly friends of Peter's. I spotted some of our Fair Oaks Lane neighbors who still lived on that quiet, private road along with the Thortons. "It will be nice to chat and catch up later on," I silently mused.

The man at the organ, just an arm-length from me, played through the hymns he had chosen; beautiful, old hymns. The lyrics resounded in my head, reminding me of so many truths. I felt sad that so many of the younger folks, in all probability, had little knowledge of the truth in song. I wished that all could soak in the richness of those hymns beyond the melody and harmony of the notes.

Gary sat on my left, Seth beside me on my right and Claire beside him. As we waited for the family to enter the sanctuary, Seth's sadness leaked out and ran down his cheeks. I handed him a tissue, keeping one for myself while wishing I had worn waterproof mascara. I rubbed his back to console, thankful  my son was alive and by my side. The wound of death was fresh. Peter had stopped by to visit with Seth just a few days prior. I imagined their conversation was looping through his mind. Neither could have imagined their next visit would be so one-sided.

Death is brutal. There is no escaping that truth. Whether it was an "expected" death after a long illness or a sudden loss of life, death delivers a viscous, painful sting. The human emotions and sense of loss should never be belittled. They are real and powerful. For years after my father died, I still imagined he might walk through the door when visiting my mother. There were things I wanted to tell him, only to remember I couldn't. Perhaps that's why I always direct my feet toward the cemetery on my first run back in my home town. I know he's not there but still, I "talk" with him as I stand next to the grave marker that reads "Only a sinner saved by grace." (From "The Legacy")

Despite the angst, the loneliness, the deep ache that penetrates every cell in the body, we must chose to trust when we cannot see. We must run to the hiding place in the shadow of the Almighty's wing. God is faithful.

(Credit: Hiding Place, Selah.


Rob Anderson said...

What a powerful perspective on the funeral service of Peter Thornton. I too was there; the only gray hair sitting in the 20 something section. We must realize the frailty of life in its current condition and the certainty of death for us all. We do take it for granted. But praise God for the certainty of the resurrection and the eternal life of fellowship and love that awaits us because of Jesus.

I love the quote at the top of your post. "It is a matter of life and is like you're dying." #livelovestrongppt

Rebekah Trittipoe said...

Rob- I so appreciated your comments and presentation of the Gospel at the service. There is only hope in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. May our lives give steady testimony of that saving grace, being careful to not disgrace the name of Jesus.

Blessings to you and your family.

"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Eph 5:15,16

Rob Anderson said...

PTL Rebekah! I love the scripture you quoted in Ephesians. I am seeing so much scripture from Ephesians lately, everywhere I turn; don't you love how He does that for us. The letter of Ephesians, as much (or probably more) than any other book of the Bible, presents the problem of sin and our redemptive gift of Jesus in such a plain and challenging way. Then the instruction and challenges for every stage of our Christianity is so concisely presented.

It was also interesting to me how you mentioned in your post about the shape of the sanctuary in the church being in the likeness of a cross. The reason being is that as I drove to the church for the service I was praying for the Lord to speak through the words He chose for me to say to the people in the room. One thing penetrating my thinking during that time of prayer is the mystery of how visible God really is when we seek Him (as He sent me what to say to Danny and Melissa, as well as the service, through my timely text messages during prayer to Him and the Jerimiah program on TV) but how utterly impossible He is to find when we focus on ourselves and our problems.

He put the thought and realization in my mind that the cross is the most visible symbol of all in our view and most of the time we never see it. Then He started showing it to me visually as I was driving down 221. He of course showed it to me initially as I passed one of the churches but then in rapid succession He showed it to me in the window panes of the houses, in the panels of front doors, in the motor joints of the brick facade. Then in the painted lines on the crosswalk on the street, on the frame of the stop lights, on the fence posts and rails as I passed them. Absolutely everywhere my eye landed for about a minute or two the Lord brought the cross into focus. It was so powerful it was taking my attention away from the task of driving. The Lord helped me realize I needed to keep the focus of my comments on Him and the power of Jesus alone to change peoples lives. That is why I pointed up to the cross during my comments and called attention to it.

I too took special notice of the cross shape of the room and He helped me see all of us in the room through the cross' perspective; it was powerful but at the same time it was very encouraging. He has provided The Way. It is our job as His humble vessels to just obey Him. When we do, He has an unexplainable way of penetrating those who have not given it all to Him. Some in the call to salvation and others to let Him have those areas of our lives we are still trying to control ourselves.

I appreciate your post and I have also enjoyed several other stories on your blog. I especially liked the Hellsgate one. I have run a couple marathons and would like to try an Ultra after I get back in marathon shape.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Rebekah Trittipoe said...

Once again, thanks for your comments. I'm glad you're thinking about ultras. Quite the challenge.

Thanks for reading other stories. I trust you will find encouragement in many areas! (And if you really like that stuff, check out my books. :)

Follow the yellow lines

Jack in his younger days "Well, you know I can't live here by myself. I'm moving in with you." I guess he was serious....