Some trips are just, well…delightful. There was the time we got bumped up to First Class on a flight to London. We felt like royalty, and tried not to look too giddy as we sipped our champagne, pretending this was oh so everyday for us. But this type of trip is rare.
But mostly in life we seem to get the other kind of journey. Like the time we were on a bus driving from Israel across the desert to Cairo, Egypt and the air conditioning broke, and one of the women on the bus was so sick we had to keep stopping for her to get off and throw up in the scorching sand on the side of the road. We hold our breath and try to be patient and wonder if it will ever end. We try to think good thoughts.
The other day our good friend Steve died. And the last few months of Steve’s life were a rough journey. A teeny tiny bit like our trip to Cairo.
Less than a year ago I was with Steve and his wife Sharol at a global prayer gathering, enjoying sweet times with them, our heads bowed together, coming before the Lord on behalf of those people suffering injustice around the world.
A couple weeks later, Steve was diagnosed with his own personal injustice – pancreatic cancer.
Over the next nine months, the community around Steve, and we, from a distance, had the privilege of walking him Home and learning from him on the way.
It was a sacred journey.
I’ve been thinking about this, and remembering the disciples on the road to Emmaus after Jesus has been crucified and two of them are scuffling along the dusty path, trying to make sense of All of the Things when Jesus joins them. It’s astounding – this privilege that we have to walk with each other and to have our eyes opened to Jesus in our midst.
On the hard road with each other, we show up and we hold hands, like wide-eyed Kindergarteners trying to stay together on a field trip. We pray, and we listen hard, and crane our necks above the pain and angst for what is sometimes hard to see – the small reminders that Jesus is there too. His hand in ours reminding us that it’s going to be ok. No matter what.
Last Wednesday Steve wrote my husband John that he thought he would be going Home that day. With tears in his eyes, John responded, “I’ll see you on the other side brother.”
They both signed their notes, “Joyfully”.
That wasn’t just a word. It was Real. Because although Steve’s trip home was a hard one, he knew it was a “trust walk” and though he couldn’t see clearly, he would be stepping into the open arms of the One he had ultimately trusted to guide him for years. Joyfully.
In the months before he died, Steve wrote:
All life on planet earth is terminal, and while we can certainly contribute to our own well-being in amazing ways, none of us is finally in control. One day, my life will be swallowed up by Life. And for today, I am choosing truth, joy, and love wherever and however I can. I am resolute in my desire to learn, to fulfill my calling, and to engage each day with as much joy as I am graciously given or can borrow.
To have a relationship with God in Christ is eternal life. One day we will be more with God than we are now. We call that heaven. But it’s no less a part of eternal life than the eternal life I’m living now.
So we’ve let go of the hand of our friend on the Way, and left it in the hand of Another, trusting that “all will be well and all will be well, and all will be very well.” Meanwhile we continue on the road with each other, trying to live faithfully in light of Eternity like our brother, Steve, still looking and listening for Jesus.