When the End Comes Before the Beginning7:30 AM
Back when I was a kid of nine, I tagged along with my brother to the babysitting class led by a grumpy blonde nurse. I don’t remember much of my nine-year-old doings (who wants to?), but this never left me. For one thing, I discovered via written test that I was below average in babysitting IQ: I didn’t know that tops could be below choking size or that there was a brand of laundry detergent besides Tide. Really?
In retrospect, I wasn’t what you’d call the brightest kid. In theory I could be, but not in output. Just the other year, at the height of my theological know-how, I pronounced Hippocrates like it looks and only the other day, “rendezvous” like wren dez vwah, or something equally offensive, and my mom won an argument over how many letters of recommendation the rules stated I could send (her three to my five—I still say the misplaced modifier threw me off). Oh, children. Some days it doesn’t pay to open your mouth.
But right-o—the babysitting class. Of course every good babysitter must know CPR and basic first aid, so that’s why we were there. Allegedly. We sat in plastic chairs watching videos for hours while the frowning nurses grumpily graded papers and handed out prizes—to make it fun.
They had to. I’d never seen such a dramatic presentation of CPR in my life: a wife’s husband falls to the ground outside a restaurant and, screaming for someone to call 911, begins frantically pumping. Begin Test 1 now.
Then they introduced us to shaken baby syndrome, somber black-and-white pictures of adorable babies put to funeral music. In thirty minutes they convinced me never to touch a child again.
Moving on to more pleasant scenes, such as a girl falling down the basement stairs and breaking her neck while the babysitter freaks out, we came upon preparedness during storms. In other words, we watched a documentary of when twin twisters hit my town on Terrible Tuesday. I recall learning distinctly that tornados were terrifying and I and my babysittees would most likely die in that situation unless we could find a spare bank vault, and even then, our arms would be suctioned off.
We spent the rest of the time discussing babysitting rates—and if babysitting was as gruesome as all that, we well deserved our five dollars an hour.
(The worst was that I didn’t get the fashionable peach and brown shirt because I was too stupid to pass that test. Horrible, horrible memory.)
I never could understand people who watched horror movies for the kicks or could laugh and text during the drunk driving video in drivers’ ed—I always kept a healthy distance from death. It terrified me. During the time I struggled with salvation, it triply terrified. I couldn’t go to sleep lest I woke up in hell. I prayed, prayed, prayed this car ride wouldn’t crash me into eternity. I had a pathological fear of leaving my American Girl dolls behind during vacation—the house might burn down and then what?
(No, I didn’t believe my dolls were alive—yet.)
Assured of salvation now and wrestling with the future, I still fear death.
Flipped on the bedside light. Flipped upon my devotional book. Flipped over on my back to uplift my morning. Good, hard things like giving thanks during all circumstances—surrendering my life to Christ—oh, how poignant and convicting! And then she said her younger brother, an amazing, loving, caring, on-fire-for-Jesus Christian—died. In a car wreck. By a drunk driver.
They watched the line go flat on the monitor.
And then they gave thanks for his life. They gave thanks. And I, who have all my friends and relatives still living, who lives in luxury and never wants for anything, I cried. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give thanks for a life ripped away—what happened to justice? To living Biblically? To the blessings of those who love God?
It was an ugly scene. I love God; I believe He’s good; but I couldn’t handle death in His plan. If He said to me, “Bailey, you’re going to die by car crash in a few weeks for My glory,” I would not rest in His sovereignty. I wouldn’t fold my hands in patient surrender and say yes. I would say no. No. I would beg for the chance to live, to love, to be loved. And if I knew one of my bosom people—my friends and family—would die in the next week, I wouldn’t take it any better.
Especially not if he were young. Especially not if I were young.
I’d say no to God.
There’s something tragic and inevitable about the elderly dying after a ripe old age, after a chance to make something of their life, after hoards of grandchildren. But there’s something horrible and unfair about a younger person dying, and I do not, cannot understand it.
No. I would beg for the chance to live, to love, to be loved. And if I knew one of my bosom people—my friends and family—would die in the next week, I wouldn’t take it any better.
Popular Christianity presents a save-your-life-here-by-saving-your-life-later mentality: pray this prayer, follow this Biblical pattern, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and you’re guaranteed a long, productive life. Cha-ching.
It doesn’t work that way. I’ve lived with my head in the sand for so long, thinking that by applying Bible verses to my dreams and “seeking after God” that I could lead Him around on a string and control my destiny.
It doesn’t work that way, either.
I surrendered. I pledged everything, forever. He gave all—I gave all. That was the deal. I agreed to it. Yet to say yes to never graduating, never walking down the aisle, never getting to do what I wanted to do so badly for His glory? Lord, why? And why me?
You’re uncomfortable now, aren’t you? So am I. I hate thinking about this but I thought about it all that rainy day. I stood outside in the pouring rain, arms crossed, soaking it in, freezing.
Friends, every day is a gift. It isn’t guaranteed. It isn’t part of the salvation package. We don’t have an entire lifespan—we only have each moment. This moment is sure. The next isn’t. Use it.
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
- Psalm 90:12