Yesterday was a perfectly fine day. It was better than fine. I preached a sermon that I’ve been waiting some time to preach. I played basketball in the afternoon, an event I no longer take for granted with how scarcely it happens these days. I survived the evening service. I came home to happy children and went to bed at a reasonable time with my wife.
Then I thought about my own death.
I don’t know why I started thinking about my death. It just happened. I closed my eyes to go to sleep, and the thought of it came to me: What would I do if I found I was going to die?
Questions like this haven’t bothered me much lately. Life is hard and often times unrewarding. For the last six years or so, I’ve lived predominantly for heavenly reward. I no longer hoard money or possessions as I used to. I’m not trying to retire early. In fact, I no longer plan on retiring at all. I push myself to work to exhaustion on projects and meetings and jobs that could bring glory to God in His church.
I want to go to bed completely spent, for Jesus’ sake.
So for awhile now, thoughts of my own death have not bothered me much. I will not miss my family after I die. I will be with Jesus, and there will be no more sorrow for me. And I have no other major things in life I would like to accomplish if the Lord decides to call me home. Now, I have other things I would like to accomplish – but at the top of my list of goals is the desire to be with Jesus. So I would not delay goal #1 to accomplish #2 or #3.
But last night, when I thought of my own death, I thought of my son. He is four years old. He has far more energy than I do and routinely asks me to do things that I am too exhausted to do, or that are hilariously impractical. It might be 30-degrees outside when he asks if we can go swimming, or it might be pouring rain when he asks if we can ride bikes. Or I could be flat-out exhausted to the point of a migraine when he asks if we can wrestle, and all I can mange is to tickle him for a few minutes.
I love my son. I love my daughters as well, all four of them in their own way. But I am convinced that, should I die, my wife would be for them what they need the most: an example of life and godliness as a woman of our King Jesus. But who will be that to my son if I am gone?
Last night that question deeply troubled me.
I am sure that there are honorable people in my life who would try to help my son if I were to die, my own father and brother first among others. But I also know that nothing can replace having a father in the home. And though I have repeatedly told my wife not to stay single for my sake should something happen to me, I am not convinced she would remarry.
Who will raise my son in my stead?
This troubling thought tormented me for more than a few minutes last night. And as irrational as it is for me to be concerned about these things at the age of 32 and in relatively good health, I cannot dismiss the notion of it. People die. I don’t imagine myself immune to that reality.
Now, from the time my first child was born, I would go into her room, hover over her crib, place my hand on her little belly and pray, “God, please be the Father to my little girl that I cannot be.” I have repeated that prayer more times than I can count now 11 years into her life. And I know that the same God who has been faithful to me, will be faithful to my children, should they call upon Him as Lord.
But I want to be there for my son. I want to be his father, the father that every boy should have. So I guess I will go to my yearly doctor visits without neglecting them. I will make sure I go to sleep on time, and not pass the semi-truck who is swerving slowly in the right lane on I-70 at 6:00 AM. I won’t climb up ladders that haven’t been anchored properly or eat a diet of foods that come wrapped in paper or cardboard boxes.
But most of all, I will pray for life. Not necessarily long life, but life just long enough to see my son to manhood. That would be very generous of God to grant me that much.
And I will try to honor the Lord, so as not to bring His discipline in my life in ways that might hurt my family. I do not want my life (or theirs) to be cut short because of sin.
And I will not take my days for granted. I will make time, even now, to be a father to my son. This does not mean doing all that he wants to do. That’s not remotely possible, nor would it be good for him. But I will invest more time into his little life. I will bring him along with me where I go. I will show him, by example, how a godly man talks and laughs and works and cries.
I will do these things to the glory of God, in hopes that He will redeem my son’s life from the clutches of sin so that I might spend eternity with him, with Him.
So thinking about death is never enjoyable. Frankly, it’s often very unsettling and disturbing. But if being disturbed is what causes me to come to godly convictions, then I will think of death as unto the Lord and remember the words of Paul:
“I say this, my brothers, the time is short…” (1 Cor. 7:29)
Indeed, it is.