December 25, 2010

last christmas

one of my favorite things about being home during the holidays is having a song service with my church on the wednesday night before christmas. worship consists only of singing praises for a straight hour. any man that wants to gets the opportunity to go up and lead the song of his choice. naturally, i have my personal favorites of the congregation. there's the old man who leads "how great THOU art" every time without fail. there's the little old man who shouts various song numbers as he walks to the front so that you have absolutely no idea what you're about to sing as the song starts. and then there's him.

him, with the tall stature and the kindest heart. my friend's dad with the wit and humor of steve martin in father of the bride. a grandfather who loves to show off his baby grandson whenever he visits. him, who used to be tall and strong and now is tall and so very thin. and every time i come home i can see that the cancer's done more damage.

on wednesday night as he made his way up to the podium, i wondered if this might be the last christmas. the last time i ever get to enjoy hearing this man sing right before my favorite holiday. the last time i get to truly enjoy his presence and his influence in my life. as all of these thoughts were singing in my head, he asked us to turn to the song, and he began to lead. "anywhere with JESUS."

i started to sing the first line, "anywhere with JESUS i can safely go. anywhere HE leads me in this world below." and that's when the strange and chilling realization hit me. we were singing the same song but with 2 different meanings. anywhere to me meant taking JESUS with me. backpacking through europe or working in zambia. finding a husband and having a family. getting a job and one far-away day turning 30. traveling to unknown places and experiencing unknown things. reaching new goals and taking new steps in life. but anywhere to him meant JESUS taking him. going only one place. experiencing only one thing. there was only one goal. only one new step in life. the biggest step. death.

my eyes filled with tears and i couldn't make it through the rest of the song. the rest of the song that said, "anywhere with JESUS i can go to sleep, when the dark’ning shadows round about me creep, knowing i shall waken nevermore to roam. anywhere with JESUS will be home, sweet home." there i was, in my youth and health, meaning that i'd take JESUS with me wherever i chose to roam, but there he was meaning that he'd cease to roam in order to be with JESUS.

and i can't help but question: can i sing those words the way he meant them? will i really follow JESUS anywhere? even if it means to death? to the big adventure? am i ready for the final goal? the final step? the biggest step? it was by seeing this man's fearless anticipation of the great adventure that awaits him that gave me the courage to live every day as if i'm facing my last christmas.

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