George Bowers: Dying well, Part 2
Last week I began to share a little of what mom did that enabled her to die well when her time came to go on Christmas Day 2014. First and foremost was her decision to accept Jesus as her savior and trust him completely for the forgiveness of her sins and eternal life beyond the grave. If we wish to die well, each of us must take this first very important step in our lives.
But that is only a first step. Jesus referred to this as being born again. Just as the birth of a baby is only the beginning, so too our new spiritual birth is only the beginning of our growth into a mature Christian. Thankfully, our mother realized this truth and allowed the Holy Spirit to transform her life one day at a time, one habit at a time, and one thought at a time.
In the initial article about mom’s passing back in January, I shared how she quoted scriptures to us and with us in the emergency room and what great peace these provided to her and to us. Those words did not magically come to her mind without some earlier investment.
One of the most important disciplines mom undertook was spending time with God in his holy word. It was unquestionably her favorite book and her well-worn copies of the Bible are more than proof of her love for God’s word. She feasted daily on the bread of life by our woodstove upon arising each morning. After breakfast, she and dad read more of it during their morning devotions and it was not uncommon to find her reading or studying her most beloved book any time of the day. She read it for personal growth and blessing and to share with her family as well as with both children and adults in the Sunday school classes she taught over the years.
In addition, as we cleaned up around her house, we came across countless Bible verses penned on small pieces of paper at various locations where she could readily read them and commit them to memory. We found portions of scripture beside her sink where she washed her dishes, near her old wringer washing machine where she washed her clothes, by her bedside where she slept, on the dining room table where she studied for Sundays, and near her ironing board where she pressed her clothing. She had several entire copies of the Bible in various translations throughout her home and she even kept one on her treadmill. Instead of watching mindless temporary television that often promotes anti-Christian ideas, she filled her mind with eternal truth.
Everywhere we looked, we found portions of God’s word which she hid in her heart through memorization, and from which she drew throughout the ups and downs of life. Just as you can’t take money out of a bank you haven’t deposited, you can’t draw scriptures out of your memory if you haven’t put them in there. Scripture memory is not just something for toddlers and youngsters, but for every Christian regardless of our age. Seeing what great peace and comfort the scriptures brought to my mom during her dying hours has motivated me to be more intentional about this discipline of scripture memory. Yes, it is a discipline. It didn’t come naturally for her either. It is intentional work of doing what we may not want to do now to receive what we what to receive later.
As we ponder the secrets of dying well, let this lesson be clear and direct: God’s word is a light to our feet and a lamp to our path. It provides great comfort and peace even as Psalm 119:50 states unmistakably. Let us read, study, and memorize the holy words of our creator, sustainer, and savior that we might both live and die well.
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at email@example.com.