Monday, March 9, 2009

Chapter 10 excerpt: "Tucker"

I woke up early one morning thinking about Tucker*. Tucker was seven-years-old; a wiry little boy-child with a puckish grin. He won my heart with his mischievous sidelong glances and mirthful eyes as I tutored him in reading each day during his first grade year. Another reason Tucker managed to pull my heartstrings was that he had seen his pet cat run down by a car, and this awful experience had left him confused and in grief. Tucker was for a time preoccupied with death.

After reading a book about koala bears Tucker announced in sepulchral tones, "Koala bears die," and he turned mournful eyes to me. I could only nod in assent; his statement was absolutely true. Koala bears do indeed die. To no avail I attempted some platitudes about how much Koala bears enjoy life between birth and death. Another day we read a book about frogs. "Frogs die," said Tucker. "Everything dies." He looked at me as though hoping I would be able to prove otherwise and set his world to rights.

Blessedly, Tucker's preoccupation with death lasted only a few weeks and he soon recovered his happy-go-lucky outlook. But I knew why I'd been thinking of Tucker. I, too, had become preoccupied with death. I had read that Alzheimer's is an incurable disease that inevitably leads to death, and seeing this information in black and white had hurt. The recognition that my mother was going to die hit my heart, and I found myself thinking such cheerful thoughts as these: "My father died. My mother is going to die. And I am going to die." Like Tucker, I'd lost my comfortable illusion of safety from the unthinkable.

Everyone dies. A fragment of Scripture came to mind as I remembered that Jesus Christ came to, "Free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (Hebrews 2:15). I examined this passage in several translations and liked the way The Message says it best: "Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it's logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by His death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, He destroyed the Devil's hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death" (Hebrews 2:14-15, MSG). Matthew Henry's complete commentary on Hebrews 2:14-15 says that because of what Christ has done for us on the Cross, "Death is not only a conquered enemy, but a reconciled friend...not now in the hand of Satan, but in the hand of Christ—not Satan's servant, but Christ's servant—has not hell following it, but heaven to all who are in Christ."

Later that evening I wrote the following entry in my journal: "Jesus Christ has conquered death. His purpose in coming was to deliver me and to set me completely free. He is trustworthy and He is in control. I pray for grace and the will to look steadfastly at Him so that I will not be afraid."

Today's Scripture: "Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, 'Be strong, do not fear; your God will come,'" (Isaiah 35:3-4a).

*not his real name

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