Today, I will bury my friend Christina Williams. Although I know that as Christ followers we look forward to our eternal destiny, I am once again reminded of how temporal life is.
“Life is a vapor,” the Holy Bible says. “It’s here a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14) Other translations of this same verse liken life to a mist, to the morning fog, to the steam that comes out of a tea kettle. We seem to blink and life is over. Some of us are given longer vapors than others, but none of us knows exactly when our vapor will dissipate.
My friend’s vapor lasted exactly 69 years. In her vapor, she bore 4 children, who gave her 17 grandchildren and 28 great grandchildren.
During her vapor, she endured segregation, Vietnam, and saw the first African American in the White House.
During her vapor, she received the book of Acts experience of the infilling of the Holy Ghost and baptism in Jesus name.
And during her vapor, she struggled to breathe from congestive heart failure, fought diabetes, and a number of other health challenges.
Yes, my friend’s vapor was filled with many, many things.
There were good things in her vapor. And not so good.
There were times when she was very proud of her kid’s accomplishments, and there were times when she was not quite as proud.
There were times when blessings and abundance came her way, and there were times when they didn’t.
Chris knew what it was to suffer. To do without. To struggle. But Chris also knew what it was to experience incredible joy and provision from her heavenly father.
When I met Chris some 8 years ago, her health was already starting to deteriorate. Yet despite her several hospitalizations and sufferings she never complained. Instead, she would praise Jesus.
My fondest memories of Chris are her shouting while sitting in a church pew. Despite being on oxygen, she would worship and praise with great exertion and her whole body would wiggle with jubilation.
Others in her condition might have been prone to self-pity. But not Chris. No, she was full of the kind of joy that can only come from one who truly knows Christ.
John Belvere, in his book The Bait of Satan, says that you know a true Christian when they are serving Christ; not for what He can do for them, but because of who He is.
That was my friend Chris.
She loved Jesus. She really, truly loved Him. And no matter how many challenges that came her way, she never once laid the charge at Christ’s feet. Instead, she would say:
“I’m gonna praise Him, Sister Goss. I loves Him. He’s gonna raise me up, I knows it… and if He doesn’t, I’m gonna praise Him anyway.” (She always called me Sister Goss – not Goff. It became a sweet endearment between us)
I want to be like my friend Chris. I want to love Christ, with an enthusiastic praise like Chris did. Not a grin-and-bear-it faith, but a joyful, jubilant, I-know-my-Father’s-got-my-back kind of faith.
And ,if ever needed, I want my children to love me enough to tenderly care for me like Chris’s kids did. There was never a time that I visited Chris in the hospital that one of her children or grandchildren wasn’t with her. They loved her. They cared for her. They bathed her when necessary. They totally gave of themselves to the woman who had totally given of herself to them.
The Holy Bible speaks about women like Chris:
“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness….Her children rise up and bless her;…” (Proverbs 31)
Her children rise up and bless her…
And Chris’s children did. Both during her life and in her death.
This past Sunday, many of Chris’s children and grandchildren came to church. They wanted to honor her. To make her proud. To show her that her vapor mattered. That they had heard and received her many admonitions to follow Christ. To love Him with all their heart. To serve Him to the uttermost.
I believe that in the doing of this, Chris’s children made her vapor complete. Because you see Chris’ whole vapor was dedicated to the cause of Christ. It’s what she lived for. It’s what motivated her. And her life’s work was her children and grandchildren. To see the culmination of her life’s work praying at the altar after church on Sunday was to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my friend Christina Williams is before the throne of God today telling her Lord and Savior as the Apostle Paul did:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;” (2 Timothy 4:7)
What about you?
How will your live your vapor called life?
What do you want others to say about you?
I leave you with one of my favorite poems:
by Linda Ellis copyright 1996
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning…to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?