“I shall not die, but live, and tell of the Lord’s great deeds.” – Psalm 118: 17
When my mother was dying, some of my siblings and in-laws kept whispering to her that Jesus was waiting to welcome her, that people she loved would be there too, that she could let go without fear. At one point in this litany of reassurance, she woke up, looked right at us, and said in a strong voice, clear as a bell, “Are you sure?”
Immediately everybody said, “Yes, we’re sure!” Even I said so—I who have struggled for years with what ‘life after death’ might rationally mean.
“We’re sure,” I said. I’m sure.
Immediately under my breath I threatened God: “Did you hear that? I just told her it’s true. It had better be. It had better be, do you hear me? I gave her my word.”
Some people claim to know. They’ve seen soft lights, green meadows, felt God’s embrace. If you find that comforting, I’m glad. But none of it is certain. We have only promises and poetry, longing and love, need and hope. The rest is silence.
All the same, if my mother had asked me a thousand times whether it was true about Jesus and loved ones and God’s embrace, a thousand times I would have said yes. And after each yes I would have threatened God, “It had better be.” And after each menacing prayer, silence would be the reply.
That’s hard. It just is.
There’s a reason they call it ‘faith.’
I shall not die, but live. It’d better be true. Do you hear me? You gave us your Word.
Mary Luti is Interim Senior Pastor, Wellesley Village Church, Wellesley, Massachusetts.