“Where have you been the last few weeks?” some may be asking. It is my intention to write a post weekly, however two of life’s biggest moments have overtaken me in the last weeks keeping me from the computer screen—a graduation and a funeral—neither of them mine. The irony of the juxtaposition of these life events has not escaped me. Graduation, or commencement—the beginning—and a funeral, death or the end. As I was mulling over this thought, God reminded me that in actuality death is also a kind of commencement, as the Bible tells us that death is not actually the end, but the beginning of eternal life. Romans 6:23 states that, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And perhaps one of the most beloved verses of all time reminds us that, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). So, you see, I have actually been busy with two commencements lately—one considerably more joyous than the next.
Saturday, May 17, 2014, I celebrated the immense achievement of my amazing husband, Dan Wilton, upon his graduation from Moody Theological Seminary with a Master’s of Divinity. And because he would never, ever toot his own horn, the Lord has placed me in his life to do it for him. Therefore, I will now share with all you fine folk that he was awarded a special recognition from all the graduate faculty for excellent achievement in Theological Studies! Woot, woot! Go, Dan! I am so proud of my husband for the countless hours of preparation, study, toil and strain he has put into this accomplishment. It has certainly not been without it’s sacrifice from our entire family. Those countless hours he spent studying also represent the time the kids and I did not have him with us. I wish I could say I handled it all beautifully, with a perma-grin on my face, however that is not the truth. There were many, many a moment that “the Brat” in me reared her ugly, little head, stomping and pouting and frowning. Near the end here, it became especially hard for me to be gracious, as now we have two babies to care for and my health is always a bit shaky. But, so as to not completely punish myself, I also must say that I had my few shining moments as well, all due to the power of Jesus Christ my Lord. There are those nights that Boaz would wake up and somehow I’d find the strength and energy to go comfort him instead of Dan. And there are the times that out of nowhere God would grant me the gumption to take the kids on a “benture” as my sweetie Michaela calls it, a.k.a. “adventure” so Dan could have the house to himself to study. Or there are the moments that I’d want to be a help to Dan, a sounding board for his Greek lesson or “Fear of the Lord” paper…thank You, God, for bringing out “the Blessing” in me at these times.
Yes, five years ago, Dan and I started the seminary journey. We were 25 and 29 years old. We both worked for The Salvation Army, lived in Michigan, had a little house in Clawson, no children, two golden retrievers and a lot of excitement for the future. Five years later we are now both thirty-something, Dan is an associate pastor and I work at a school. We have finally sold that little house in Clawson, MI (thank you Kevin Stewart Team at Remax!!), and now own a slightly larger one in Peoria, IL. We are down to one golden retriever, but we have since had three children—one of them in heaven with Jesus. We still have a lot of excitement for the future. God does a whole heck of a lot in five years, friends. We are ready to commence. Bring on what’s next.
So, today, May 30, 2014, I sit here seven hours away from the funeral of my Uncle Glenn Walker. He was my mom’s brother, died at 72 years of age. The extenuating circumstances of his death are a tragic one, to be sure. His life’s end has brought in family from all parts of the United States—our family and my Uncle Jim & Aunt Shelley Walker have driven in from Illinois. My Aunt Betty Griffin and her daughter and son-in-law have driven in all the way from Alabama. And my cousin/sister-in-law, Allison Wilton (I’ll tell you about that another time, but I assure you we are legal) spent the entire day yesterday waiting on standby at the airport in Colorado to fly out. She made a flight, praise be to God. We are here because those who are still living here on earth need our support. They need our love, and they need a shoulder to lean on.
Unlike my husband’s graduation day, my Uncle Glenn’s commencement is an occasion that we cannot rejoice in. It’s been a struggle for me to find any consolation in his death. And to be sure, without Christ, there is none. But God in His great goodness and extreme graciousness to me continues to bring me back to the Gospel, because that’s what our fragile life on earth is all about anyway. So, for those of us who are alive and remain, please hear me when I tell you that, “Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28). Oh, friends! We all will die. All of us will have this flesh on us wither away and our bones become dust. But this is not the end of life, it is the beginning. Where we spend the rest of our lives, lies in the hands of a good Father and at the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. When our bodies die, our souls can live because Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross of Calvary. And if you put your faith in Him, you can join the rest of us who eagerly await his return. Maranatha, Lord!
One last thought. These two commencements—a graduation and a funeral—remind me of the only True Beginning…and the only Actual End. In Revelation 21:6-7 God says, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”