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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Leaving the Shadowlands

Nine-year-old Adam Dunaye died today. The boy had been suffering from brain cancer for five years. He was confined to his bed when I interviewed him and his family for a story last month, and by last weekend he was barely responsive. Sometime between 2 and 3 p.m. today, his heart stopped beating.

Of course things like this get you thinking about heaven. Hell, too, because that's exactly what his parents faced every day as they watched their son waste away. Thank God for their church, their friends, their community, but in times like these is there anything that can really bring peace?

Andrew Peterson sings these words in "The Silence of God," from his album Love and Thunder:
It's enough to drive a man crazy, it'll break a man's faith
It's enough to make him wonder if he's ever been sane
When he's bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod
And the heavens' only answer is the silence of God

It'll shake a man's timbers when he loses his heart
When he has to remember what broke him apart
This yoke may be easy, but this burden is not
When the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God

And if a man has got to listen to the voices of the mob
Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they've got
When they tell you all their troubles have been nailed up to that cross
Then what about the times when even followers get lost?
'Cause we all get lost sometimes...

There's a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll
In the hills of Kentucky, all quiet and cold
And He's kneeling in the garden, as silent as a Stone
All His friends are sleeping and He's weeping all alone

And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
So when the questions resolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God
Adam's parents, Mick and Michelle Dunaye, have heard God's silence much these last years.

"We are beggars. This is true," declared Martin Luther on his deathbed. There is no time we know that he was right better than when we look into that deepest darkness, that night which from our fragile perspective, seems to have no end. The modern American church can celebrate endings all it wants, but we were not designed for death -- we brought it upon ourselves with the fall.

The late Rich Mullins told us that he "weeps as a man who is longing for his home." Amen, Rich. The church, impoverished and homeless, must always weep. We are not home yet.

But oh, when we are. Neither the mind, nor the heart can comprehend that day. What will it be like to walk without fear? Where will our imaginations fly unfettered by our lusts or greed? Far away, I imagine -- what can a man who has everything dream of?

That day when we "drop these ragged bones, and step into our lives," -- as songwriter Andrew Osenga puts it -- was one Adam was waiting for. He had the faith of a child, and Christ spread wide his arms and said "Let the little child come to me."

As much as we may fear the journey, we'll also be home soon. Andrew Peterson follows "Silence of God" with another, "After the Last Tear Falls." The chorus:
And in the end, the end is oceans and oceans
Of love and love again
We'll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms
Of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we'll look back on these tears as old tales
"No more faith, no more hope. Only love remains." C.S. Lewis probably said it best in The Last Battle:
Then Aslan turned to them and said:
"You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be."
Lucy said, "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often."
"No fear of that," said Aslan. "Have you not guessed?"
Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.
"There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are--as you used to call it in the Shadowlands-- dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
That's all I have. I'm going to go spend some time with my daughter.