I’ll never forget my Uncle Jake. He was my mother’s uncle, really, and well-liked by the whole family. A bachelor all his life, he always seemed to have a twinkle in his eye, and my mother says that as a young man, he was a real heart-throb. I knew him during the few years before he died, and saw him only rarely.
Uncle Jake was what the King James Bible also called Esau–“an hairy man.” Each of his huge, meaty hands was covered with a thick pelt, his eyebrows were the size of fruit bats, and it looked as if he had stuffed a whole pad of coarse steel wool in each ear. We were fascinated by Uncle Jake, partly because when he ate we could hear every morsel of food traverse his entire upper GI system until it splashed into his stomach. But mainly it was because of his hair. We had never seen anyone with so much of it in so many unusual places.
When I reached the age of forty-five or so, I began to understand this phenomenon more clearly. Much of the hair on top of my head had abandoned ship, but it began to appear in places which had been previously bereft of vegetation. My ears, for instance. Though people who know me might want to debate this point, I have not really lost any hair at all. What happens is this: at night it is sucked silently into my scalp and travels–like uncle Jake’s supper–along a complex network of microscopic passageways until, by dawn’s early light, I see it sprouting jauntily from my ears. I’m not suffering hair loss at all. It’s just relocation.
For a believer in Jesus Christ, death is just like that. Not a loss, but a relocation. The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Cor 5.8:
“Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (ESV)
Not loss, just relocation.
The Holmes & Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale* rates the death of a spouse or child as the most stressful event in life, and I’m not going to argue that point. (Relocation is on the list as well, but pretty far down.) Please understand. I don’t mean to minimize the emotional and spiritual effects of death with a verbal caricature of my Uncle Jake–a loved one’s passing always brings grief on some level, even when it is expected.
Our daughter-in-law’s grandfather went home to heaven this past week. As part of a brief tribute to him, our son wrote this on his Facebook page:
“I loved his vitality, his love for music and creativity, and the gleam in his eye as he told the punch line of a corny joke. He’s no longer with the wife he loved for 60+ years, but he’s in the presence of his Maker and Savior. And I look forward to getting to know him much better some day.”
Not loss, just relocation.
We can’t escape the impact of death, and God does not intend us to. But we can be confident that for a child of God, death is not really a loss at all.
Let us live in the reality of relocation.