Three days ago we celebrated Jesus’ victory over death and His opening wide the gates of heaven. We tried to linger with Him in Gethsemane on Thursday, and not hide our eyes when He was nailed to the cross on Friday. We sat by the tomb and we waited. On Sunday, we ran with the women, shouting: “He is not here! He is risen!”
Two weeks ago we buried my husband’s brother in the ground next to their father. We would have liked to linger longer with him as he battled cancer, but it was quick. We didn’t hide our eyes or our hearts when he got weak and jaundiced. On Sunday two weeks back, we sang from the pews: “It is well with my soul.” And it is. And we sang “I Cherish the Old Rugged Cross.” And we do. We finished with “Amazing Grace.” And it is, yes it is.
Death is the final surrender, isn’t it? Death rebuffs any thought that we have control. “Who can add a single hour to your life?” Death cannot be thwarted by time, by medicine, by family or friends. If that were the case, we would have saved Bill by giving him our time, the best medicine, our very breath.
Death, like suffering, is the great equalizer. We will all face it, and we will surrender. No one gets a pass on death. But we do choose if we will surrender to it. Bill embraced his diagnosis with great courage and care for those who loved him. That wasn’t always the case.
Addiction had robbed Bill of the generosity of spirit that comes with sobriety. His liquid master made him miserly and small, needing to protect what little peace he had. That’s the irony of addiction—it makes your world very small, though you think you’re bigger than life. That’s what happened to Bill anyway.
But by the time he got his diagnosis, something miraculous happened. Bill’s surrender to “a power greater than himself”– actually freed him from himself. The irony! Jesus met Bill in his addiction and taught him surrender. And in that freedom, Bill loved big.
Surrender to love changes everything. It’s why when we die (to anything—a dream, a hope), we learn to freely will what God wills. And that is resurrection power. When we will what God wills, we are free. Jesus is a good and generous master. We saw it in Technicolor in Bill’s surrender. And I will never be the same.