Friday, May 22, 2009

Going Home

I dreamed I was dying last night. Cancer. I was at the last stages. I know it well. I have often been with others dying from cancer as a pastor. I was still able to talk, but my motions were limited and thoughts were in and out of reality.

I rarely dream about death and I'm sure I dreamed this because my wife and I are going to a funeral tomorrow in our hometown. It is the first funeral I have been to in the last 12 years that I have not had some official duties to perform. As I told my wife, "It's strange."

What made this dream memorable was the fact that I had those final conversations with my children. It was present day, so I was my age and they were their teenage selves. I talked with them about their boyfriends, interests, and school. It was a fully transparent conversation where I knew it was then or never to tell them what mattered most and what was on my mind. At one point, I slipped out of consciousness (so I was in the subconscious dream state dreaming about being subconscious...weird) and awoke in my dream to see three heads right over my bed staring down at me. "I'm ok." They smiled.

"I want you to know one thing," I said to them. "I want you to know that I still believe what you have heard me speak about all of your lives. I believe there is a God and God came into the world in the flesh in Jesus and I believe that when I die, I will go to him." My eyes were closed at that point, but I had more to say to them. "I know you have committed to live for Jesus in your lives. Never back down from that commitment. Live for him." And then, as they have heard repeatedly over the years, "Nothing matters more."

I could feel the weight of their bodies laying against mine and hugging me at that point. It was a bittersweet moment. I didn't want to leave them. They didn't want me to go. But we all knew I was a sick man and this was no way to live. So we hugged and loved each other in the moment.

It was then time to talk to my wife, but before I got to the final conversation with Cile, I woke up, grateful to be very much alive and well, but feeling exhausted. I am writing this not long after waking up and still feeling the heaviness of that dream.

This blog is about living the way of Jesus. It is about what it means to live as a Christian in this world. Part of what it means is being clear about our future. Theologians will categorize this as the doctrine of hope. We are hopeful about our future destiny. Contrary to many beliefs in our world, something happens after our death. Physical death is not the end of the journey. We continue to exist after our physical deaths.

This puts a unique spin on experiencing death in this world. The apostle Paul says we never grieve as others do who have no hope. I have friends who are funeral directors and they tell me they notice a difference all the time between those with faith and those without. The difference is hope.

I don't want to experience death for many years. However, by faith I know what will happen when that time comes. I believe Jesus meant it when he said he was going ahead to prepare a place and would come back to get his disciples and take them to their true home in heaven. He was talking to his first century disciples, but I believe he was talking to all of his people.

For that reason, I think of death as a homegoing full of hope.