Monday, November 14, 2011

Living well and dying well

This morning I received news that a good friend of mine and a ministry leader in Chicago had passed into the arms of Jesus on Saturday night. His had been a hard battle with colon cancer over the past several years and he died in the loving arms of his wife, his hand being held by his daughter. 

Glen lived well! He had given his life to the urban poor and racial reconciliation for decades, being on the forefront of that hard work before the church in the United States was engaged. He and his family walked the walk as they lived in the neighborhood in which they worked. As a white leader, he teamed with an African American leader to forge a new way of thinking about what it meant for whites and blacks to work and worship together for Jesus in the days after the race riots in Chicago, a ministry that continues to this day. In every way, Glen lived well.

It was not an easy walk, including the death of his adopted son in recent years and numerous challenges that come when one is pressing into Satan's territory. Through it all, Glen displayed a kind demeanor, a deep sense of calling and a tenacity that touched all around him. Glen had a theology of life and ministry which He lived out so very well. Glen never became angry with God even when treatments made life incredibly difficult and his energies depleted. He continued to do what he could and spent time with family and friends even welcoming them when he was at home in hospice.

But Glen also had an understanding of death. He fought his diagnosis with all that he had for the sake of his family and ministry but determined that if this was his time that he would die well - and he did. He understood that life is not all there is, and that in fact, the best was yet to come and once he went on hospice he turned his eyes toward his next chapter and died in peace and dignity. 

I spoke to a group of Parish Nurses on Saturday who often minister to those who are dying and they reflected on the difference between the deaths of believers as against non-believers. How peaceful and even holy the moment is when believers take the step into eternal life compared to non-believers. 

Having been on the brink of death on several occasions I know a bit of the inner struggle - but I am determined to live well and to also die well. We live by faith and we die by faith. We neither overestimate the value of this life or underestimate the value of life with Jesus. For those of us in the second half it is something to think about. I look at many who have gone before me and am determined that I too want to die well when the time comes, full of gratitude for the life God has given, full of faith in a loving Father and full of anticipation of finally looking into the eyes of the one who made my life what it was - Jesus.

Let's leave a faithful legacy in life, and in how we face death, as all of us do and where the ultimate test of our faith is tested.


Brian Newman said...

Thank you for letting the world know of the legacy of Glen - a rare sight to see someone live and finish well. This is my vision also. It is a humbling process, but such a very good way to live.
So glad that our journeys have intersected, Tim. It's a privilege to walk alongside you and be mentored by you in a pretty dynamic context!

Shlomo said...

I also want to thank you for writing this wonderful tribute to our brother Glen. In all of our lives nothing better could be said than that one was faithful unto the end. The quality of Glen's final months and weeks was merely a reflection of a life lived under the mercy of GOD for many years. Glen's graceful passing speaks volumes in terms of hope for those of us who yet remain and pray for strength to end well. Thanks so much for sharing this story.