Do you ever lose sleep praying for someone?
Years ago, I never would have considered the question. Then, when our first baby was young, and I wasn’t getting enough sleep, my husband told me, “When you can’t sleep, God is calling you to pray.” Whereas that didn’t make me feel any better, it did get my attention. Was there someone I should be praying for?
Apparently a lot of folks. Because over the years, I have spent seasons of my life lying awake praying for this person or that – usually someone I know only casually, and my prayers would probably be a big surprise to them. But because they drift into my thoughts and stay, uninvited, at the front of my mind, I end up praying for them, asking God to save them, soften them, help them.
One of my latest prayer targets died last week. We were never friends, although I had hoped that someday we might be. When we moved from our last town, this woman’s children were the friendliest and the best behaved in our new neighborhood. Before I knew it, I had become this woman’s unpaid babysitter, as I was often home when she was working and her children were home alone.
She was a woman in pain. She wore her pain visibly, with the cancer label. Following the modern American cancer protocols, her cancer grew and spread, like her doctors’ bank accounts and investment portfolios. Her pain grew also.
I prayed for rescue. I prayed for healing. I prayed for all kinds of restoration in her life. Typical of the roller coaster of the cancer-cycle, full restoration seemed for a season to be totally impossible. Then probable. Then maybe fully possible.
Then she died.
Before we ever established a friendship.
My husband, Sergei, who had worked with her, went to the funeral, which was two hours away. I stayed home, cleaning, keeping busy, and praying for the family.
Sergei came home discouraged. I wondered how this could be possible. After all that praying on my part, hadn’t the woman changed? Come to Jesus? Been saved? Transformed even?
“They had the funeral at a golf course,” he sighed, sadly.
I blinked, trying to make sense of the words.
Running my hands through my hair wasn’t making my brain work any better. Strangely enough, the words sounded the same when I spoke them myself. But they didn’t make any better sense.
“There was no Bible reading. No prayer. No mention of God or eternity. I never saw anything like it,” he continued. “People said some nice things about her. Lots of people had nice things to say about her. But there was no mention of God. – It was a works-based salvation.”
In Sergei’s world (and, I suspect, in the world-as-it-actually-exists), “works-based salvations” are just a deceptively-sad, slippery road to hell. This was, for me, not very good news. Especially after all that prayer.
Having tried several unsuccessful forms of works-based salvations myself over the years, I had already resigned myself to not being able (especially on a stay-at-home-mom’s salary) to pay people to say enough nice things about me to get me into heaven at my own funeral.
I wondered if I should start a funeral file, or if my family would remember that some of my favorite hymns were marked in the hymnals (if they remembered to look in them) or that several of my favorite praise songs were stored on my iPhone. As long as they played the “Irish Hymns” version of “In Christ Alone”, instead of the first one, we would be in good shape, I thought.
Yet, I couldn’t get over the shock of the venue. I kept returning to it. “She had her funeral at the golf course?” I stupidly repeated.
“It’s what she wanted. Apparently,” Sergei sighed.
The concept had never occurred to me. What if we could have our funerals anywhere we wanted?
My unknown, never-actually-my-friend-prayer-target had held her funeral at a golf course.
“You know where I want my funeral?” I shouted, excitedly.
My husband halted nervously in our living room. “Well, in two years – it won’t be finished for a couple more years.”
By this time Sergei was losing some much-needed skin color. This might have been a great time to tell him that I wasn’t planning on dying any time soon, and I had received no bad medical news or anything ominous along those lines. But if I could have my funeral anywhere I wanted, “You know that Answers in Genesis is building a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark that will be finished in two years. I want my funeral there!”
Sergei, who normally doesn’t stammer, stammered now, “But how would anyone get there?” (Several states away from where we currently live. Unless we can manage to move conveniently closer.)
“I don’t know!” I squawked. “But that’s not my problem!! It’s not their funeral!!!”
While I laughed hysterically, Sergei stomped off, before I had a chance to add that when they were finished at the Noah’s Ark exhibit, they could backtrack to the Paluxy River and scatter my ashes in the dinosaur tracks in the river, making sure at least some of my ashes went into the tracks.
Did I mention that everyone should save money to take themselves as a group to Six-Flags Over Texas while they are there?
I wonder if I should start writing any of this down.
Of course, if I die before the Noah’s Ark exhibit is finished, all my careful preparations will have been a waste of time.
Yep. A total waste of time!
April 8, 2015
P.S. Please feel free to pray for J’s family. Thanks.