I love mysteries: mystery stories, mystery movies, even murder-mystery dinners. In the world inside my head I am a female Sherlock Holmes or an American Miss Marple. I like to imagine I am smart enough to figure out “who done it” and why they did it. Often that is not the case, but it doesn’t bother me because just the mystery of it all enchants me. The same is true when it comes to understanding God. Since there is no way I will ever be able to comprehend the scope of His glorious nature, I embrace and enjoy those mysteries that surround Him.
Recently my friend Daniel Maat introduced me to a new term that captivated my imagination and thoughts – “The Pascal Mystery.” He said, “The Paschal Mystery is basically the process of dying and rising, death and new life. We see this all around us and in our own lives.”
Haven’t we all pondered the parable Jesus told about the seed that needed to die so more fruit could be produced or the mystery of having to lose our life to find it.
Don’t we all struggle to some degree with the concept of dying to self so we can live for Christ? Life from death seems to be so contradictory and confusing. To be honest, even though we see this concept displayed around us all the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the full, rich, profound blessing of this mystery until God gave me an opportunity to experience it personally.
I still don’t fully understand it, but I do appreciate it.
The story began with my husband David developing pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of lung tissue due to severe pneumonia). The majority of the time, a diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis is a terminal diagnosis. Over the next few years David contracted pneumonia again and again and each time more healthy lung tissue was destroyed. As we walked this road together of watching his physical body slowly die, I witnessed his spirit become more alive and attuned to the Spirit of God.
Together we lamented the death of dreams and plans for our future and worked daily to adjust to the new reality of worsening physical health.
But as we worked through our grief together, we discovered that God’s Spirit was doing an amazing work of birthing within us a new hope and a conviction of God’s loving faithfulness, His powerful sustaining hand, and His merciful providential care. Our future was a mystery to us. We had no idea how long David would have or what would happen, but there was a growing trust and assurance within each of us that no matter what the future held, God would be there and His grace would be enough. Actually we discovered that His grace was more than enough. It was lavish, abundant, and at times overwhelming. What a glorious mystery to have such hope rise out of a time that the evil one meant to be a season of hopelessness.
As enriching as it was to feel more alive in Christ as we faced the inevitability of David’s death, nothing will be able to compare to the glorious mystery we experienced on September 16, 2011.
I walked into my husband’s hospital room that morning and he had a big smile on his face. He told me he was going home that day. He could feel his body systems shutting down, his eye sight was fading, and he knew his time on earth would soon be over. This did not scare him. He was filled with excited anticipation of beginning his eternal life with his beloved Father. As the day progressed, his breathing became more shallow and longer between breaths. His room was filled with family, friends, former students, physicians he had taught, even other hospital staff. He was so loved by so many. There was a holiness that permeated that room. David could hear angel’s wings. Then at 1:00 pm my sweet husband opened his eyes looked at me and said, “He’s really here!!”
At that moment his earthly body died, but his eternal life began…..The Pascal Mystery!
Never have I felt so much grief intertwined with so much joy. David was gone – great grief! David was at home with God – great joy! It has been two and a half years and not a day goes by without my thinking about him and praising God for the glorious mystery of life after death. David left behind a huge legacy of grace that continues to live in our son, daughter-in-law, granddaughters, friends, former students, and other faculty members. So even though he is dead, his example of godly living lives on in others.