When Death Interrupts Your Prayer Visit
Yesterday we went out to visit and pray with some families in the community. As with all prayer visits in these communities, it is one after another. They all live in houses virtually built on top of each other. Fortunately, many from this community lived in houses made of concrete, lots of them built by Potter’s House. You always know a Potter’s House house; it is a yellow house with a navy blue stripe at the bottom – Potter’s House colors. Same design, same colors, same overwhelming blessing to its recipients.
It was one of those houses that we were approaching next.
As you’re approaching a house for a prayer visit, you aren’t really thinking much about your entry into the home. Generally, you’re scrambling to figure out the family’s situation. How many people live there? What do they do? Are there kids? How old are they? As a matter of fact, I would have had a head on collision with the family if I hadn’t looked up at just the right moment. As I was making my way through the sheer curtain that served as a door, they were making their way out. This was strange. Most families just wait for us to come in.
Both the matriarch and patriarch of this home came out quickly. They threw the sheer curtain out of the way bolted in the opposite direction. Just as startling as their exit was the wailing. With tears streaming down their face they were saying something. We couldn’t understand any of the words pouring out of their mouth until I finally picked out:
The oldest matriarch of the family had just passed away. She had finally held up the white flag in her battle with health. In that instant, her spirit had left her body and this entire family was left, here, on earth, without her. It wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but when is death expected?
We twisted our way around the laminate walls that guarded the community to the next corridor of houses and entered into the home behind the grieving family. I mean, what else are you going to do when you’re there to pray for the family?
The living room was packed full of family members and friends. Some were somber, unmoved and unshaken by this relentless enemy – death. Others were screaming, wailing inaudible prayers and hopes for the eternity of their long-lost mother.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever been in the room at the time of someone’s death, or even moments after, but it is a surreal experience. That body, that just minutes ago was breathing, seeing, feeling, was now cold and motionless. No amount of grieving can reverse it. It’s not a bad dream from which you must wake. It’s probably the most human that I’ve ever felt. Surrounded by the shouts and cries of this family, time stood still. In that moment, we all came face to face with the harsh reality that few of us want to consider: this life doesn’t last forever.
One of the daughters was sitting next to her mother’s lifeless body. She had been calmly praying. I’m not entirely certain what one prays for in that situation. Strength? Peace? Honestly, death makes everything feel trivial…even peace.
In an instant the daughter fell down on top of her mother’s body and started speaking to her lifeless mom. She began asking for forgiveness for being a bad daughter, telling the body that she had prayed that her suffering would end.
Even though my beliefs about eternity are defined and concrete, I wonder if I’d respond differently.
That afternoon I walked out of the house feeling hypnotized. I quickly rehearsed what it was that I believed, but couldn’t shake the sense of frail urgency about my time on earth.
Death is not unfamiliar to God. It is wholly other than God, because it was not part of God’s original design. But God is familiar with it. When the first humans allowed death into the world, God embraced everything that it would mean for them and for Him. There is no sense of loss that God doesn’t understand. His own son died. God felt the burning pain of loss. For an instant, God bore on his own shoulders both the weight of death and the cause of death.
With all the familiarity that God has with death, it also comes an immense hatred. It is hatred so full and so strong that God set out to kill death. In a twist of cosmic irony, when Jesus died, God killed death raising Him again.
I turned the corner to return to Potter’s House. I couldn’t help but feel my life pulsing through my veins, knowing that this body was not built for eternity.
Yesterday, death seemed to have won. But one day soon, death will breathe its last.