Loving God and loving others on borrowed time

Categorized as 10/13/08 Goshen News column

This has been a tough week for our small community. In a matter of four days’ time, two of our own have been called home suddenly to be with the Lord. If the voice of God is supposed to be still and small as I Kings 19 tells us, it certainly hasn’t felt like that. God, it seems to us, is shouting.

It was just earlier this summer when another Wakarusa native died unexpectedly. Staff Sgt. Travis Hunsberger was killed in Afghanistan while on active duty. The community mourned with his family and celebrated his life, acknowledging with deep solemnity and grateful hearts just what his commitment to his country had cost.

This brave hometown soldier fell only days before Independence Day. When his body was carried through the flag-lined streets, an utter stillness fell on those gathered that day, and we realized once more how costly is the independence we were preparing to celebrate.

Ever since this summer when I heard that Diane Brown was back on chemo for her breast cancer, the phrase “borrowed time” has been running through my mind. Diane, our beloved school nurse, had been battling the disease for the past three years. It was a preventive measure, they said, and she was back in her office when school started in August.

In fact, it was on the second day of school that she called me, saying she had a sickie in her office that belonged to me. Thanks to her trademark good cheer and gift of encouragement, I hung up smiling and went to get my kiddo.

What a shock it was, then, to stop at the school a week ago Friday only to see the sad faces of her coworkers and to hear the news of her death. It was her day, her time, and none of us were ready.

On Monday, with thoughts and prayers for the Brown family still heavy on our hearts and minds, we received the incomprehensible news that our close neighbor, Lisa Lengacher, had passed away. Lisa had simply gone to sleep, only to awaken in the presence of the Lord she loved. It was her day, her time, and again, none of us were ready.

As we struggled to believe and accept the awful reality, our minds immediately went back to the many memories we have of Lisa and her family. Her girls and our boys jumped on the trampoline together, played hide and seek, and enjoyed numerous Shipshewana pretzel runs. There was an indoor campout once, and a 1:30 a.m. attempt to catch the eclipse together.

The boys especially were bewildered, trying to understand why God would allow two people they knew to die so suddenly. We talked about how God is always trying to speak to us and that the first thing He was saying is that we need to be ready at all times. “And what is the second thing?” one of them asked.

After thinking about this over the last few days, I think God’s “second thing” may have something to do with how we live. For some reason, we often apply the phrase “borrowed time” to someone with a terminal illness. In reality, we’re all living on borrowed time. While God alone knows the number of our days, He gives us a great deal of latitude in how we use them. In remembering the lives of these three, here are some things that stand out to me about how they chose to use their days.

They all loved the Lord first, and they loved other people. They just loved others differently. Travis loved us by choosing to fight and defend our freedom. He deliberately stood between us and the evil that threatens. For this, he paid the ultimate price.

Diane loved others with a mothery heart. I saw how she loved her family, how she loved the countless children that came through her office, and how she loved those who crossed her path with her warm spirit and encouraging words.

Lisa loved others by countless acts of kindness. With hugs. With prayers. With words of encouragement. Her driving passion was that others would come to know her Jesus.

At her funeral, something amazing happened. In the midst of the grief, joy broke out. There was worship, which she would have loved, and there was laughter amid the tears as we recalled her life. It was, above all, a celebration.

How is it with you, my friend? Do you know Jesus, the One who also stood between us and evil when He faced death on the cross? He gave His life so that you might be His child. He has been calling you, knocking on the door of your heart since the day you were born. Can you hear Him?

There is no sin so black that He cannot forgive if you will only ask. Oh, do not wait. We’re living on borrowed time, you know, and one day will be our last. Let us redeem the time that we’ve been given, making every day count by following hard after God and by loving other people. No more excuses. No more delay.

There will be a funeral for each one of us. Let’s live our lives so that on that day, there will be worship, there will be celebration, and joy will break out.

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