“Why, you do not even know that will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a while and then vanishes.” — James 4:14
My dear friend Em, the young father and husband who drowned on his birthday- August 29, 2010- during a family beach outing, passed on to be with the Lord midmorning of Saturday, September 3. He fought dearly for his life for almost a week at St. Luke’s Hospital in Manila. He left a young wife, Rina, their 8th month old baby boy, Zion Emmanuel and Chrissy, the 9- year old daughter of Rina from a previous relationship whom Em had legally adopted.
I had the privilege of officiating the very first vigil service in his memory on September 4 during a 4AM dawn service at UCCP-Cosmopolitan Church. While waiting for Em’s remains to be brought to the church, I had a few minutes with Rina and Em’s mother. My moment with them was precious. It was a kind of moment that required no words — but just sincere and whole presence on my part. Twenty-eight days before the drowning incident, their son Zion Emmanuel was baptized. The celebration was grand. Many of their family and friends thought it was too lavish. More so, quite a number were surprised why Em and Rina included a renewal of their marriage vows in the program. They had not even reached their 2nd wedding anniversary! But you see, I learned from all these that there are things we can best understand in hindsight. There are actions that require time before being fully comprehended. Before leaving for the beach that day, Em had whispered to Chrissy many times, “This is the happiest birthday of my life.”
Rina decided not to open Em’s casket for viewing. There was no need to. Em left so much good memories to his family and friends that were enough to fill their minds and hearts. Like most of us, Em had his own share of life’s adventures. But two years ago, he tearfully gave his life to Christ during a prayer meeting he and Rina attended. Many noticed the changes in EM’s life. He openly talked about his faith to his friends and associates, even during business meetings . He generously supported the work of Christ through his resources. And most of all, he endeavored to build a Christ-centered home.
During his week-long battle for his life, Em went into cardiac arrest three times. And each time that happened, Rina would beg the doctors to revive him. During his very last arrest, Rina desperately pleaded the doctors to save Em’s life one more time. The medical team tried to revive him for nearly twenty minutes but to no avail. In the midst of all that chaos, Rina took a deep and long breath, held her husband’s hand and tearfully shouted at the top of her voice, “Em, I’m now letting you go.”
To this day, I still feel a heaviness on my chest when I think of all that has happened to Em and Rina. What comforts me is God’s absolute sovereignty — the certainty of eternal life which Christ has promised to those who believe and the assurance that Rina and her children will never be abandoned. For the past weeks, I have been doing my share in reminding people during worship services and prayer gatherings that we cannot keep on putting off our relationship with the Lord. You see, many of us may not actually have the time we think we still have. While there is still time, we need to make peace with God and with others. This past week, I have had the blessed and awesome privilege of witnessing people give their lives to Christ in the spirit of faith and renew their commitment to bring others to a relationship with the Lord by sharing the gospel of salvation.
A relationship Christ, like all other relationships is never ever assumed. It is consciously, personally and intentionally entered into in good faith. It’s amazing how one can assume a relationship that may not be there in the first place. Friends, Jesus is reminding us all today that he will never tire offering this relationship to us. But such a relationship calls for a choice that must be made. It is a choice that is ours and ours alone. It is a choice that is urgent and pressing. This choice is not about membership to a religious denomination or activity. It is a choice to live our lives in full and humble obedience to Christ–to live by his truth–to serve him with sincerity and to obey his call for us to make a difference in the world we live in.
If you are being led to make that choice now as you are reading this article, you may pray this prayer in the silence of your heart, “Jesus, you shed your blood on the cross of Calvary so that the whole world may be reconciled with God. I am humbled to realize that I am part of the world you redeemed and died for. In faith, I ask forgiveness for living my life independently of you. Would you now receive, O Lord, my life which I humbly offer to you today in faith. Walk with me, O Lord and fill me with your Spirit that I may live the life that will make a genuine difference in the world and bring true honor and glory to Your Name. Amen.”