First, I want to say thank you. Thank you for always letting me be who I was created to be. Even when you couldn’t understand, you never tried to change me. For this I am deeply and eternally grateful. I’ve always known I could be honest with you and you would accept and love me. That’s an amazing gift, and it emboldens me now to bare my heart.
There are many things that I long to say to you — or rather, that I long for you to hear. Some of them I have said before and others I have attempted to say, but in recent months I’m not sure my words have penetrated the fog of forgetfulness or the bone-deep weariness that no amount of sleep seems to satisfy.
And now? That longing has become urgent.
A couple of weeks ago we found out your cancer is back. The doctor predicts you have four-to-six weeks left.
Soon your spirit will leave your body. You’ll stand face to face with God, and Mom? I have to say this. I know we’ve gone ’round and ’round about Jesus for the past forty years, and sometimes you’ve been annoyed by my “fanaticism,” but all those conversations have been swirling in my head, and I can’t let it go. Not now, with death standing at the door.
God’s timing is always purposeful. It’s no accident that the news of your cancer’s recurrence ushered us into Holy Week. It accompanied me as Jesus broke the bread and poured out the wine, and as He stooped to wash His disciples’ feet. I felt its weight as He bowed low in the garden and prayed, “Not my will, but Thine be done,” and again as He silently endured hatred, mockery, and scorn — all crimes He knew He would soon willingly take the blame for along with every other sin that ever had been or ever would be committed.
The news of your cancer rang in my ears as the crowds shouted, “Crucify Him!” and as He stumbled under the weight of His cross through the streets of Jerusalem on the way to Golgotha.
And as I heard Perfect Love utter, “Father, forgive them”?
It was for you. For you.
And I want to be sure you know this, but I fumble for words, and then I open the Word, and Isaiah speaks.
A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
The word of our God will stand forever. And this is the word of our God:
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:11,27-28)
And this from Romans 8:31-39:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And this is what I hope with all my heart that you know: that God has made this beautiful, pursuing love available to you, to me, and to anyone who hears his voice and follows, but that’s the only offer on the table. There is no one good enough, no one entertaining enough (you once told me God wanted you in heaven because you’re fun), no one even remotely deserving of God’s mercy and forgiveness. We can’t earn God’s favor, and the good news is we don’t have to try. Even when we were filthy, disgusting, and putrid in our sins, Christ loved us, came for us, died for us, rose from the dead, and has gone to prepare a place for us.
We can’t do anything, and we don’t have to. He has done it all.
I hope you understand that you can only come to Him empty handed. You can’t do or be a single thing to gain eternal life. You can only receive it. God loves us so much, He sent His only Son to take our guilt, our shame, our lies and selfishness, and to replace them with His goodness and perfection.
Jesus laid down His life for the sins of the whole world, but that doesn’t make salvation automatic. God is loving and good, but He is also fair, and eternal death is our due. Eternal life is a free gift Jesus paid the ultimate price to offer, but He doesn’t force it on anyone.
A long, long time ago you told me you believed Jesus was God’s Son and that He came to show us how to live. When I asked you why He died on the cross, you said, “I don’t know. I’ve always been upset with God about that.”
And I don’t remember what I said back then, but I want to say this now: Yes, Jesus did show us how to live, but that’s not why He came. He came to die our death. He came to break the teeth of cancer and Alzheimer’s and pride and self-sufficiency — to obey His Father’s will, to pay the penalty for the sins of the human race, and to usher us whole and holy back into the presence of God.
You are fun, Mom, but God doesn’t invite party guests into His kingdom. He adopts sons and daughters.
In your lifetime you have feasted abundantly on common grace. You’ve been cherished, protected, and provided for. Your husband adores you, your friends admire you, and your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren love you dearly. Your portion has been sweet.
But the flower is fading. The grass is withering. And God’s Word is relentless. Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.
You’ve feasted on common grace — the sun that shines and the rain that falls on the just and the unjust — but have you ever tasted saving grace? Have you heard the voice of the Good Shepherd and followed Him?
If you haven’t, there’s still time. Jesus’ body was broken for you. His blood was shed for you. Take. Eat. Even now the Lord of the universe stoops low to wash your feet. Won’t you fall into His embrace and live forever?
I love you so much, Mom, but not nearly as much as God does. Please hear. And please, please be His.
When it comes time for good-bye, may you go in peace.
And may we meet again.