Saturday, January 22, 2005

Working Out Salvation

Obstinate weather today. Snow and more snow. Winds gusting, sculpting drifts where it seems to me no drifts have ever been. And cold.

Four years ago today it was also cold. At least -20C, but clear. Snow was past crunch to squeak. I remember it well because it was the day my father died. He disconnected himself, in a way. With that powerful strength which had never left his arms, he shoved the feeding spoon away, pulled out his IV and his catheter and died. When we arrived, his shrunken body lay in a pool of sunshine. A lone crocus bloomed at the end of this bed.

He had always been a singular man. A lifelong Christian, his faith had grown as his mind wrestled with issues in his own way. He had travelled the world, revelling in the differences and similarities amongst people in China, the middle East, Greece and the UK. Not for him the easy platitude, the heedless prayer. His one regret, "If I just had one more trip in me, I'd like to see India." There were no more trips.

"Don't put me on that prayer chain," he had exorted. "I don't want people praying for me to be healed. We all have to go sometime. You just pray for me to have the grace to face what is for me." At 83 years of age, this seemed a strong, pragmatic approach to death. He had lived successfully with cancer for 12 years. It was enough for him. He had worked out his salvation "with fear and trembling" and he didn't want to disgrace God by flinching at the end. He achieved his aim.

When St. Paul wrote to the Phillipians, his implication in 2:12-13 was that they were to carry on in his absence, without the kind of direction they had received in the past. They were to do this, respectful of the fact that God was working in them them to achieve His purpose. This implies that they were to act in accordance with what they already understood about the Christian life. And St. Paul goes on to remind them what some of these things are, just in case they had forgotten.

When I am doubtful about the will of God, or am confronted by someone inquiring about the will of God, I am thrown back on Phillipians. "God works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." It is no great mystery. There is no exclusively right way, but a path that is laid through first principles, and holy living. Personally, I am praying for grace to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling.


Kathryn Ballantine said...

Wow, to tell you the truth i actually forgot. How could i , i never forget, but i did. Usually on the 22nd of every month i sit for a second and remember, just thinking, missing. The other day I had a dream that i was laying in bed and i heard Grandpa come down the hall to my room. I thought to myself, oooh grandpa's comming, just pretend you're asleep. It was a really neat dream, i actually heard is voice. That's all there was though, he never actually came into my room, i just heard him in the hall. Comforting, deams give you the ability to feel the presence of someone you lost so long ago. I still miss him just as much as the day he left and i still look for those Turtle Expresses in the mail...

steph said...

Memories, anniversaries, markers on our journey.
There are those who have given us treasure and heritage and they deserve to be honored in our life.
They are still so alive to us because of what they imparted and how we carry it.
This is a beautiful three fold cord of past, present and future.

Anonymous said...

This is so beautifully written. I appreciate how you reflect on this day and mark it with such tenderness, yet strength.

bobbie said...

what a beautiful tribute connie! i'm sorry for your loss, but also very glad for the life he shared with you, thank you for sharing him with us!

Deb said...

What a wonderful man. Your tribute is absolutely lovely. Your words about the will of God are both timely and encouraging to me. Thank you.

Anonymous said...


You rock Connie - everytime I read you, I feel the urge for a road trip to Dawsonwood.