Katy Beth wipes a tear away as we sit over cappuccinos at Starbucks in MOM park. She has just put her senior girl on an airplane from Budapest to Jerusalem a day after the airport bombings in Brussels. The significance of that is not lost on either of us.
“I hugged her and told her that if anything happens, meet me at the West Gate, cuz’ that’s where I’ll be waiting in heaven.”
She mixes a giggle with a sniff as I smile and marvel at the wisdom there. Truth is, in a couple of weeks we fly to Jordan and a couple weeks later, our girl flies home to Budapest. And the real story is that we spend a lot of time in those places considered ‘high target areas’ for terrorism. We simply live in a more dangerous world now according to the US State Department Travel Warning that turned up in my email box on Wednesday. There is a shift happening and it can drive fear like a dagger right into the center of our hearts.
The enemy knows that death stings, with its violence and its ripping and shredding as it pulls us away kicking and screaming. Death is so final, because the bed-time story that we know best ends with that last intake of earthly breath. That next milli-second, that next blink, that next sound, site, smell, word, touch is nothing but a mystery wrapped up in a word that causes my imagination to hyper-ventilate: eternity. Funny things is, I think I have spent my life thinking eternity is a ‘when’ or a ‘where’, instead of a ‘who’.
If I could just wrap my finite mind around the idea that to be ‘in Christ’ is exactly that. We are safely wrapped in him, not just today but for all of eternity. And not only are we in Christ, but he is ‘in us’, if we know him as our Savior. So when Paul writes to us that nothing can separate us from God’s love, we have only to grab onto that story and let its truth sink deep into the sinews and tendons and pulse of our bones. We are alive in Christ. Teflon Armour. An empty grave.
Yes, bombs still explode and we live in a world that wields this life like a terrorist wields a Kaleshnekov. A world that believes that death’s sting is our story’s final word. That is not how my story ends. I choose life.
These past months of working with people who we call refugees has taught me so much about culture, about faith, and about the fear that has long controlled my life. I have new heroes with names like Walid and Maram and Assam and Muhammad who have packed their families into backpacks and carried hope across a treacherous sea. Sitting in Walid’s tent at a petrol station, he bounces his 3 year old daughter to hear her giggle and looks me in the eye, ‘The EU can take my tent, our blankets, our food but we are not going back to certain death.’ Then, he pulls out a phone and shows me pictures of his family home, which is now a pile of rocks.
On this Good Friday while we stand at the bottom of a cross, can we say the same? Can I say that the World may take my tent, my comfort, even my body’s ability to exhale and inhale, but I am moving forward into Life? Terror wields its power only when we believe that our story ends with a Judas kiss.
That Katy Beth, she is the queen of one-liners that challenge me to go deep with Jesus. She shrugs her shoulders, gives a smile and says, ‘Sometimes we die but you gotta live.’ Indeed, we do, dear Katy Beth. Indeed, we do because that really is our story.
With Christ’s help, I choose to live fully. I choose Jesus over fear. I choose to believe that these more dangerous days are an opportunity to witness God doing miracles that I never dreamed I would see. ‘Go big,’ my friend Graeme always says. I choose to tell my girls that they should Go Big and follow Jesus, wherever He leads them. That means that I promise to do the same.
And then, I choose the West Gate. I’ll be there with Katy Beth and I think that we’ll have a coffee shop set up right there. If you need a meeting place to face that fear, set your heart toward Jesus and meet us at West Gate Coffee. We’ll be there swinging on the golden door, sipping cappuccinos, relishing life as we wait for all of our loved ones to come Home.
It is Friday. I’ll see you at the West Gate.