The gospel is…the word about Jesus Christ and what he did for us in order to restore us to a right relationship with God. – Graeme Goldsworthy

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Woman Gripped by the Gospel

To say my late mom loved her birthday is an understatement. Today would’ve been her 62nd birthday. In anticipation of today, I was thinking yesterday about what this day would’ve been like if she was alive. Dad would’ve taken her to Park Meadows and bought her some classy clothes in the late afternoon. Then, they would’ve been off to Fresh Fish Co. for dinner at 62% off. (Does that place even exist any more?) Then she probably would’ve wanted “Goldie” (as she affectionately called my dad) to speed back to “10157” to be with her grandchildren and some carrot cake made by my wife, Rachel. I can see her with a cute, stylish hairdo, slapping her thighs with her hands as she leans over to speak with each of our children – Katie, Braedan, Gavin, Kevin, and Chandler – laughing with delight at their birthday greetings and stick-figure, crayon-drawn birthday cards. A cacophony of voices would sporadically yell, “Happy Birthday, Mimi!” as they surrounded her with hugs, squeals, and (no doubt) competitive closeness. Then, she’d say, “Let me hold my baby,” as she reached for Clara, my seven-month old daughter.

Instead we’ll do what we’ve done every year since her death 6-1/2 years ago: drive a half-hour to Mt. Olivet Cemetery to visit her grave.

I loved my mom. I still do. She was such a special lady. I could say many things about her life and legacy today. But one thing eclipses all others. If there was ever a woman I’ve known who was gripped by the gospel, it was her. When I say she loved her birthday, most of you know that I’m saying that she enjoyed it immensely. But what my mom loved more than anything in life was Jesus Christ. Let me share something with you that illustrates this.

February 15, 2005 was a day I’ll never forget. I arrived home from a full day at seminary to receive a call from my sister, Molly. My mom’s condition at Porter Hospital was quickly worsening. The doctors were asking my dad what his wishes were if she went into cardiac arrest. Plane tickets became available to us from my cousin, Lyni, and there was a flight leaving Louisville, KY (our home at the time) somewhere around 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours. I ran to our storage, ran back with the suitcases, started throwing clothes into them and gasping through tears, “God, please don’t take my mom! Let me get to her! Please, Lord!” A friend from seminary drove on the wrong side of the road at one point to get us to the airport in rush hour traffic. The lady at the ticket counter almost didn’t allow us to board. “M’am, my mom is dying. We’ve got to get on this flight,” I pleaded. Somehow she put us on it. Then there was a delay at the gate for over an hour; then a long stopover in Chicago where we met up with my (now) brother-in-law, Josh, at O’Hare Airport as he joined us on the flight to Denver. I remember my last moments before landing, thinking, “Lord, give me strength for what awaits me.” We drove to Porter Hospital. After coming up a storage elevator, I was amazed to see the hospital hall outside her room filled with relatives and friends, sitting in wearied anticipation, waiting for our arrival.

I went in to see her. “Hey, babe,” she said. “Thanks for coming.” I opened my small Bible. I don’t remember what I read her, but I wanted to comfort her with the only thing that’s truly comforting: the truth of God’s Word.

“I’m afraid to die,” she confessed.
“Oh, mom, don’t be afraid,” and then I tried to speak of what Christ had done for us to remove such fear.

To be completely candid, I felt for the first time how inadequate we are in those moments when death lingers like a mist over our loved one. When you hear them express their fear, it punches your soul. They’re in the greatest test of their Christian lives, and you’re speaking gospel comfort from this earth’s shore as their life begins slowly drifting towards eternity. It shakes you. It ought to. Our eternal destiny is no game. That’s why the Word of God is really the only word of comfort during such moments. My undying love and strong presence was not what she needed most that late night/early morning. Christ’s dying love and risen power was. And so I read to her. And prayed with her.

We don’t get to practice death several times so that we’re confident about the experience when it’s finally time to die. We go through the darkest valley we’ll each experience only once. And there’s no test-run. This was what my mom was struggling with, the unknown existence of what lay beyond the only thing she’d ever known – 55 years of life on this earth.

So where’s the comfort? What are we each going to cling to when we feel our soul slipping from our body? What will anchor our confidence? When death grips our body, what will grip our soul with hope? Brothers and sisters, it is this: our elder brother, our Messiah, the emperor of the universe, Jesus Christ, experienced death for us…and then He came back from stone-cold death to live forever! And so shall all who repent of their idolatry and believe that His life, death and resurrection reconcile us to the one and only God!

…something changed a little over a week later. Death’s misty fear gave way to brilliant confidence – and longing. On February 25th she told my dad, sisters, and me,  

“You guys need to let me go. I need to go and be with my Lord and Savior.”

One day fear-stricken about death. Another day begging to depart this life. How can we account for this? Scientists may relegate it to a chemical release. Philosophers may explain it through a time-tested theory. Anthropologists might academically assess it through the lenses of their secular sociology. Not so for Christians. We know such transformations are a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit – and nothing else.

The cultivation of gospel truth that daily gripped Maureen Gold’s life over 2-1/2 decades sprouted an overcoming faith that moved the last, great mountain of unbelief – death – in her greatest moment of need. She didn’t just become gripped by the gospel on her deathbed. She was gripped by it everyday. Can the same be said of you? If so, sing with me today…

I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

In loving memory of
Maureen Frances Gold
September 14, 1949 – February 27, 2005
“To Live is Christ. To Die is Gain.”

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