This past Monday morning I received a phone call from my father informing me that his oldest sister, Barbara, is in the hospital again. A couple of weeks ago she fell and ended up there 4 days, and now it seems like the end is out hand. Her kidneys are shutting down and she had fluid around the heart. It breaks me heart to know that her life is coming to a conclusion because her life was never made right with God. It breaks my heart because I know that she was given ample opportunity to do so, and always found an excuse to not do what it right.
Donít get me wrong here, I loved my Aunt Barb, but she was a lot like those old secret agent messages. She was set for self destruct. I look back on her life, and I think back upon the stories that were shared with me by my grandmother, my father, and her other brothers and what I remember about her is that she sabotaged herself all the time.
She would purposefully get drunk, cause a problem in a bar just so that my dad would come bail her out. She often complained that she was never really apart of the family, and yet she was never treated as an outsider. In fact, we would often go out of our way to include her in our family outings. Including making holiday plans around her schedule, moving holiday plans to her neck of the woods, etc. As kids we hugged her just as we hugged our other aunts and uncles. My dad grew up with her kids, I grew up with her grandkids. In fact, I remembered looking fondly to those times we got to see our cousins, because we didnít get to see them very often. Yet, through it all, despite the love that was constantly showered her way, she never really seemed like she understood that she was never an outcast. She was never unloved.
As I thought about her on Monday, and throughout this week I began to realize who tortured a person must be to live this way. I wouldnít say she was depressed, but the way she lived kept everyone at armís distance from her heart. How many of us are living our lives the same way?
How many of us sabotage our relationships with Godís people? As a preacher it may seem odd to say this, but it really is easy to justify. In my life I have moved far too often. I have been here in Grinnell longer than my previous two works combined. Because I have moved so often, it is easy to sabotage my relationships with the saints by believing I am not going to be in a single location to become close enough to really matter. It is a real battle for me. Another temptation I face in self destructing my relationships with the saints is that I have often been let down. Those whom I trusted, those whom I thought were my friends have been those that called for my departure because they didnít like the fact I took a stand for morality, or challenged them to spread the gospel, etc. I have to be careful not to keep you at armís distance because I am afraid you will disappoint. By doing so, I am actually fulfilling what I am trying to avoid. I am hurting myself while I am trying to keep from being hurt.
My friends, I have watched my aunt fail miserably at this for 35 years. I now see where it has left her. Leaving this world never building a true friend, a loving relationship with your family makes for some really lonely years. (And she has had a lot of them). Donít bring this upon yourself. Donít make her mistakes. Stop worrying about whether or not a brother in Christ might let you down. Stop fretting over whether or not someone will move on.
To close, let me add this, not only has my aunt spent a lifetime sabotaging her relationships on this earth, she has spent a lifetime sabotaging her relationship with God. While I realize that we donít earn our home in heaven, and while I realize that none of us deserve to go to heaven, God will not be saving everyone. My aunt sabotaged her relationship with God by believing that all she had to do is believe. True faith has works. That is Jamesí point in James 2. If you really believe, you will be doing something with your faith. Aunt Barb didnít do anything with her. She always had an excuse as to why she wouldnít go to church, why she wouldnít be more active in the Lordís work, etc. If the history of Israel teaches us anything, it is that God is not looking for excuses. He wants a faithful people who choose to serve even in the face of adversity.
If her family keeps her wish, I will be traveling to Indiana to officiate her funeral. It wonít be easy. It will be the 1st funeral I have officiated that I know the person has no hope. She brought that upon herself. Please, donít make the same mistake. -WTK
Grinnell church of Christ
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Volume 5 Issue 15