I was first introduced to John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress" when I was about seven years old. In fact, looking back, I have no doubt that God used those lessons, adapted for children by Child Evangelism Fellowship, to lay the groundwork for my own conversion during that same time period. Whether it was shortly before, during or shortly thereafter, I could not tell you. I only know that young as I was, I too had that growing awareness of my own burden and separation from God.
Even at that young of an age, I was strongly drawn to Christian's journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Rather than Bunyan's account triggering fear, I was moved by the realization that Christian was not alone in that dark place. There were no knights on white horses to rescue him. There was no blinding light from Heaven, ripping the sky in two and driving away the darkness. There was no companion walking beside him that he could see and yet... And yet.
In retrospect, I firmly believed that God was preparing me in advance to face not only my own "Valleys of the Shadow of Death" but to bring hope to others wandering there.
When Darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.
In a few days, my husband and I are going to be flying to Orlando, Florida. It is not a vacation. It is, unless God determines otherwise, to tell him goodbye until we meet once again in the presence of God.
Several weeks ago, after fighting cancer valiantly for the second time, he knew it was time to stop treatment. It was not really delaying the inevitable at that point and he wanted to spend his last days making good memories with those he loved rather than being confined to a small room. Truthfully, I don't blame him.
My husband's cousin, is a prodigal son who came home. His first encounter with cancer was a wake-up call that shook him to the core. Life is not a game and like many who have a rude encounter with their own mortality, he learned the lesson well. At the end of the day, everything is stripped away and it is just you and God, face to face or as a friend of mine would say, you are eyeball to eyeball with God.
It has been interesting to watch his Facebook posts change over the past few years. He went from being the reckless, party guy to the guy who is posting words of hope for the hopeless and challenges Christians to go higher up and further in.
A few of his "friends" have been offended. They feel he is too "preachy". I figure that means the verses he is posting is stepping on their toes a bit. I must admit, I have said "ouch" a few times as well I figure that is a good thing. It helps one stay on track!
Yes, there probably are atheists in foxholes just like there are atheists on deathbeds but as someone who has had their own battle with cancer, it is interesting to see what a popular topic God is amongst the dying. In fact, conversations about God seem to be the norm amongst them, rather than the exception.
So we are heading to Florida this Friday for what might very well be the last goodbye until we ourselves cross over. Then again, it may not for God is a God of miracles. I only know that in one man's life, God has already done the greatest miracle of all.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.