As I sit, thirty-four minutes away from the clock chiming the beginning of Easter morning, I am reminded of the day I asked Christ to deliver me from the life that I had lived up until that spring morning twelve years ago. That was the day that I transitioned from the previous thirty years of existence into my first day of life; the realization that God Himself suffered the indignation of bearing the burden that I had carried since birth…compounded by the pain that had been heaped upon my soul in the ensuing years, was overwhelming to such a profoundly limited and insignificant being, such as I. In one fell swoop, I was shattered, eyes wide open to the glory of the One who loved me more than is humanly possible…reassembled into a new creation, as beautiful and flawed as a newly mined diamond seen through the eyes of the master jeweler envisioning the creation that He would fashion to live forever for His posterity. Today, by His grace, I am who I am: a father…a husband…a spiritual warrior…standing under the banner of His immeasurable love and blessing. In the past I stood alone against the Machiavellian enemy of my own creation…today, I no longer stand alone, I stand with my Savior, and we will face the enemy of myself until the last breath is drawn into this body. I would like to share with all of you a speech I wrote and presented in a Public Speaking course I took when I was in college; the assignment was to give a ceremonial speech…I chose to give a eulogy…to myself. My prayer is that, on this Easter morning, this words of testimony will touch the heart of someone out there who is tired of wandering through existence…someone who is longing to live, secure in a love that cannot be extinguished. Without further ado, I give you my eulogy…
We gather here today in the memory of a man. Many who knew him considered him to be a good man; he served his country with honor, had a family, he was a hard worker. He had achieved what any American’s would like, a good job, a home, most of the material possessions considered essential to a happy life in today’s world. To most people, he seemed friendly and outgoing, always willing to lend a hand if he could.
To those who were closest to him, however, he was a different man. To them, he was arrogant, foul mouthed, and difficult to be with; demanding, yes, it was his way or the highway, as they say. His friendliness was a façade, donned for social acceptance, in truth, he could not stand people. Bitterness was found in every corner of his soul, lurking behind the doors of a multitude of secret sins and tortured memories. Here was the bitter taste of the divorce he endured, there was the wormwood essence of his father’s death, whom he never bothered to tell goodbye. Yes, these things were embedded into the very essence of his being, his beauty to those outside his inner circle was a mask, but those who knew the real man knew it was only skin deep.
A volatile temper was his control mechanism; an acid tongue was his whip. He had little capacity for love beyond himself, and truthfully, no one could tell you if he even had that. In his mind, he was the captain of his soul; having no sense of absolute right or wrong, he was free to define it in his own eyes. He had a love affair with alcohol, and he had the perfect drinking companion, himself; the only person who agreed with him about everything.
He had a belief in God, instilled in him from childhood, but somewhere along the line, he had come to believe in God in his own terms, defining Him, just like everything else, in what he believed to be right. That changed on a dark October night in 1995. Drunk and stoned, he uttered the first prayer he had said in years: “God, please, kill me; take my life.” He passed out that night and awoke the next morning, seeing that God had not answered his prayer, he added God to his list of bitterness. If only he had known how his prayer would be answered just a little over four years later.
At the time of his passing, his was on the verge of losing his wife and his kids; another victim of his arrogance and love of drink. And on the morning ofMarch 9, 2000, he died in tears.
He was, in reality, not much different from any other person. We all have the dark places in our hearts that we harbor. The only difference is the extent to which we nurture them, but they are all burdens too heavy to bear. At some point, we all must see the bent figure of one too weak to bear the baggage of his or her life, but having no place to put it, we press on, until it crushes us.
How do I know this man so well? Simple…he was me.
Yes, I have given my own eulogy, an odd thing, I know, but dreadfully important. You see, what started as the mourning of death, is actually a celebration of life. I stand before you today, alive, but I have truly described a man who is dead. His ghost comes back to haunt me from time to time, but he is still dead. Yes, I live, but how, you may ask, do you live if this man died? In the words of the Apostle Paul: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” – Galatians2:20.
You see, this man did die on that morning of March 9th, but in his place was reborn the man you see before you today, no better than he who died or any other person on the face of this world, still prone to wander and stumble, to entertain the ghost of the man he was, but made who I am by God’s wondrous gift of Grace, through faith.