Archives, Pondering, Wheaton

Before Their Time

I am retreating up in the mountains with my husband of thirty years at the very moment that my friends in Wheaton are laying their beloved son, student and soldier to rest. He was a classmate of my son’s. So I walked over to our little chapel high in the treetops and prayed for Sam’s family and friends and church.

I opened the windows to feel the coolness and smell the freshness of the woods after yesterday’s thunderstorm. The life outside sparkled and the quiet seeped into my soul. Nothing could have seemed further away than a Wheaton sanctuary and a cherished son’s funeral.

After awhile I left the small chapel slowly, and, for the first time, noticed a plaque on the wall. The chapel was dedicated to John III by John and Faye. I stood there a moment as the truth sank in. This chapel was built in honor of another fallen son somewhere. In another place and another time family and friends had grieved the loss of son whose life was cut short.

What difference does the God-sent gift of a never-to-disappoint hope make to those who grieve sons’ lives lived well, but not long enough? Time appears as a hard mockery to the way things should be. Sons should bury fathers and mothers, dedications on chapels should be in a remembrance of a previous generation. How do we lean into hope when futures are cut short and memories must be carried too long?

Buried in the lost literature on the virtue of hope lies a secret that ought not be so dusty. Hope, for the Christian, makes all of our futures long and all of our pasts short. Whether we live 80 years or 20, the fundamental Christian reality remains the same. However long we live on this earth will seem so, so short compared to the length of eternity. And on that side of time, nobody will ever have to say good-bye. Eternity will never be cut short, and all dread and overwhelming grief for lost sons and daughters will be but a dim memory.

But in the meantime, may memories be sweet and the future rest lightly. And may God pour his ever-present love into hope-battered hearts.

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