In all likelihood, my son will bury me.
That thought came to mind as he toddled around our kitchen, giggling at his reflection and directing an invisible orchestra with a wooden spoon.
In all likelihood, my son will bury me. And how could I prepare him for such a day?
It’s a sobering thought, a thought that instantly transports me to a church, a casket, a family. I shake my head in utter disbelief…until I remember that some of my closest friends have buried a parent (or two).
I realize that there are tragic circumstances of parents burying their children; my mom’s youngest brother perished in an accident at the family farm. Grandma still tears up a little when she talks about her son, even though she knows her baptized child now enjoys heaven.
But thankfully, that sort of tragedy is infrequent enough to be abnormal. (And even in that case, it’s comforting to know that baptism grants faith even to the youngest of children.) We parents are glad that our son is prepared for the unfortunate possibility that he would be buried first.
But apart from abnormal tragedy or freak accident - the chances are that our child (or children) will one day sit at my funeral. How could I prepare him? What could I do during my remaining year(s) to make sure he knows the comfort that only God can give?
The question has a simple answer: make sure that the family knows Christ. If the kids have learned the facts of the faith from a young age, they’ll be comforted by the God of all comfort - and comforted by Christians sharing that truth.
But the question goes deeper. Knowing that faith in Christ is a comfort…at the graveside, how will our kids know that mom & dad were Christians?
More to the point: How do you know that you are a Christian?
Perhaps you felt some emotion at a particular point in time; maybe you committed your life to Christ in a moment of spiritual euphoria, and you can point to that moment or that emotion.
Another Christian possibly points to a life of good deeds as proof of one’s faith; after all, the Bible does talk about good deeds, cities on hills, that sort of thing.
Maybe you consider yourself a Christian simply because you’re on a membership list somewhere and occasionally make an appearance; and since the church considers you Christian, you consider yourself a Christian – even though the doctrines of the faith have been long forgotten.
But each of these scenarios presents a problem: What if the emotion isn’t there and I don’t feel like a Christian? What if all the good I do is overshadowed by the terrible news of something else I’ve done? Or, worst of all: What if a church full of mourners is deceived into thinking that mere church membership merits a heavenly welcome?
Emotions are fickle and frail, constantly needing affirmation. Good deeds can testify to one’s faith, but – as Paul said about himself in Romans 7 – the good I want to do is often not what I end up doing. And merely having my name on a church’s roll is useless without faith.
How do you know you are a Christian? On that fateful day (hopefully many years in the future), how will my son know that his dad is in heaven?
Not because his dad had an emotional experience or felt emotionally uplifted every Sunday. Not because his dad was well-respected and had a sterling, unmarred name in the community. Not because his dad was listed as a member at a church he never visited.
When that fateful funeral arrives, my son will know me as I was: a regular person with the normal ups & downs of emotions, a man who daily sinned much and readily admitted this fact; but most of all, my son will know that Dad knew Jesus and listened to his voice (John 10) in the one place where it is found: the revealed Word of God.
And in that same chapter, Jesus has promised that he knows his sheep, and that no one can steal his sheep from his hand. Yet again, the comfort lies in who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, and what Jesus has promised.
God grant the same comfort to you.
Now if you excuse me, I think I’ve got a tired baby to cuddle.