September 22, 2008

The Knock at the Door

Do you screen your calls? Liar. We all do. If we don't want to talk to someone...we just don't answer. If you get an email from someone about something that you'd just rather not talk about or address you just don't respond. Or if you see that neighbor coming up the driveway and hear the doorbell ring, you just sit really still, pray the garage door isn't open, and wait for them to go away. Welcome to America. But what if the option wasn't there? What if you had to answer? And what if it was Death knocking at the door? "Everybody quiet! Maybe he'll go away."

Nope, sorry. There's no hiding, screening the call, pretending the email didn't come. When he comes knocking - and he means business - he usually doesn't wait for you to open the door. He just kicks it in.

My Dad - after falling through a ceiling, being in a coma, slowly recovering, and battling the enormous load that comes along with being a traumatic brain injury survivor - has now had the distinct privilege these last 2 years of fighting cancer. Once the Nerf football sized tumor was removed from his hip, it was on to chemo, radiation, and every other variety of drug and remedy you can imagine. And according to the assessment of the doctor at MD Anderson, as of today, my Dad has already outlived his prognosis. Some might call this "living on borrowed time" or other insensitive poetic descriptions. I don't find the need to label it or categorize it. This is my Dad's life for cryin' out loud. Mortality is a lot less metaphorical when it gets personal.

My Mom is not only dealing with the indescribable weight and stress of my Dad's frailty and illness, the unbelievable truth of ecclesiastical bureaucratic decision-makers who determine who's worthy of a certain level of insurance and who they'd rather just retire than have to float the bill for (yes, this goes on in churches), but she's also dealing with knowing that my Dad's desire is to hang on "for her, and for us." Are you kidding? How are you supposed to carry that weight? Are you supposed to live with the idea that YOU are the one in the course of history who is going to manage convincing Death that he should actually go away, find someone else whose door is unlocked, and come back to our street later? Sorry. No one can carry that load. Not you, not me....NO ONE.

I think for my Dad the prospect of Death is a little easier to swallow because he was medically dead 3 times after his accident. According to many, after that fall, he was never going to have "life" back. In your face! And so when it comes around again, it's not like the person has this experience that says, "Wait. I've been here before. I know how to beat this, to get him to go away and never come back." No, I think it's more like, "Here's the thing: I was for all intents and purposes dead already. God gave me a second chance. He gave me years that I might not have had. So, in all honesty, I'm not scared of hearing that knock at the door. I knew it would come eventually. The question is, are you going to cover your ears, pretend you don't hear it...or will you bravely come with me to answer the door?" 
I think we think that people facing Death (especially people we love) are scared of Death and in actuality it's us - the ones who haven't faced him down or heard him knocking - who are scared out of our minds. We're not ready to let go!

Please hear me loud and clear: I do NOT want that knock to come to my Dad's door. Who would? But I also don't want my Dad to think that he has to screen the call or ignore the knock for my sake. I don't want my Dad to fight for existence...I want him to live! After all, we know the One who is the "first and last...the living one who died...alive forever and ever...who holds the keys of death and the grave." And because of Jesus Christ "Death is swallowed up in victory". Hello. Did you catch that? "Death is swallowed up in victory". And if "swallowed up" means what I believe it means, he has no right to be standing on my front porch!

So, who is that knocking at the door? Who is that inevitable visitor that will come calling on each of us at some point? Well, one thing I know for sure: for those of us who know Jesus Christ, it's not Death out there knocking. I'm pretty certain it's the One who "holds the keys". And that is what we hope for!

Revelation 1:17-18
1Corinthians 15:54-55
Romans 6:9
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

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