Monday, October 13, 2014

Hell's Trophy

A man died today.  Slipping from this physicality of temperatures, aromas, humidity, pain, and sounds he left behind a shattered frame ravaged by disease and quietly slid into the essence of eternity. 

I knew this man, worked with him.  Before the disease exhausted his strength, rendering him unable to participate in the work he enjoyed, I shared many an hour with him.  It was the camaraderie of work he enjoyed, second only it seemed, to regular swearing.  Often my ears would cringe as he would animate in telling of some weekend excursion, some poolside conversation with a neighbor, or simply work related tasks - all enveloped with expletives for descriptive emphasis.

When referring to people, he would often preface with "that gaddamn (insert person's name)" in his suburban Chicago accent, not intending dislike or disdain in any fashion.  Rather, it was as if this were a proper part of their name.  Much more colorful descriptions were reserved for those he truly did dislike.  With him, what you saw was what you got whether you liked it or not.  If you didn't, you were free to leave.  I liked this man.  I liked his lack of false pretense and simple honesty of self.

I enjoyed the manner in which his face lit while sharing the details of his one and only daughter's wedding this past summer.  His love for her is immense.  I enjoyed the manner in which he cherished life, describing his slice of paradise - a home with a pool and expansive lawn and trees he relished.  His idea of a good day involved a pool raft and a beer with lawn mowers in the background.  I enjoyed the knowledge he shared that he was going to be a grandfather, his first grandchild due in nine months.  His smile was ear to ear.  My heart was full for him, hoping he would enjoy holding this newborn.

And now my heart is torn.  This man faded from the workforce not long after the above joyous revelation.  Through inquiries I learned he had taken a turn for the worse and was given approximately a year to set his affairs in order.  Then without warning, today, he was gone nearly eleven months shy of the physicians' estimation.  Gone.  No ambulance ride.  No hospice.  No intensive care.  Just gone.

The few conversations touching on faith that we did share did not leave me overly confident that this man had much use for an all powerful, all knowing God that loved him.  In fact I sensed quite the opposite as he regularly expressed himself in his particular and colorful way.  What I did sense was a desire to grasp the purpose of his sufferings, his challenges, and why this particular malady had stricken him.

And now I no longer have opportunity to converse with him and can only hope that he came to saving knowledge of our Savior prior to stepping forever into eternity.  But the doubt gnaws...what if?  What if this man did not?  What if somehow I failed to be and live Christ in this man's presence as fully as possible?  This man was ultimately responsible for his own destiny and future, but what if my life was the only gospel this man had access to and it was less than legible?  What if this man's soul is one more trophy claimed by hell, raised in an affront to a heartbroken Father who provided every grace, love, and possible sacrifice to save.

We are daily surrounded by these souls.  What should shake us to our core is that we will all have to give an account for not walking the gospel love of Christ out such that others take note.  Hording life in the face of death is a serious charge, yet so many claim a life giving faith while absently permitting an entire race to perish.  It is the Holy Spirit's to move the heart, but it is ours to be Christ present with hands and feet and when necessary voice.  Hell seeks to parade as many trophies of heaven's redemptive failure before the end of all things.  My co-worker may or may not be one of those trophies; I won't know for certain until I myself am before my maker.

Look at the person in the chair next to you, the guy in the cubicle across from you, down the hall from you, the woman at the desk you regularly stop by, even the student you regularly see.  Now see them as the prize Hell would covet and the cherished one a Savior laid himself to be nailed to a splintered beam for.  It is time for us to rise up, be the Church of love and grace that Christ called us to be and be the light to a dying world that is daily ushering thousands of trophies into Hell's eternity.  Ultimately it's why we're all still here.

"Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
Matthew 28:19

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