By Cindy Koch –
A few months ago, I had to tell my daughter she was dying. I had known for some time, but she wasn’t quite old enough to grasp the truth of what was happening. So as parents do when the children are small, I could only bring myself to give her part of the story—age appropriate tidbits as she grew in understanding. It’s very possible I did the wrong thing. Maybe I should have drowned her with the gory details from the beginning. But because of the nature of things and the pace of our life, even I periodically forgot about her sickness. Finally, the opportunity presented itself, and the truth has come out.
I vividly remember her face when we talked about it plainly that first time. She just looked at me blankly, as if she couldn’t quite understand the words that came out of my mouth, as if I were speaking a different language that she couldn’t decipher. But I knew she heard my words. It just made no sense how those words I spoke were describing her. She shook her head, over and over, trying to shake loose the unhappy syllables that now clung to her ears.
She is young and strong. She reads, creates, and makes friends easily. But a few months ago her own body started attacking itself. Although this was not the first time, she took notice of the effects immediately. She would try to love another, and she would end up hurting herself. She would want to do good but lose herself in wickedness. All she wanted was peace, but all she could conjure up was drama and shame. In the middle of her darkness, I figured she was ready to hear the whole truth. This disfiguring disease that was resurfacing was her sin. Her struggle and failure deserved death. She was dying, on her way to the grave, and there was nothing she could do to cure herself.
Now, you may have just sighed a breath of relief. To learn my daughter only struggles with the deadly sickness that each and every one of us deals with. To realize that the horrible path to death is one we all walk together in the body of sin. But that made it no easier for her. She just heard and saw and felt the weight of her morbid reality and that she could not do anything to solve it. Increasingly, day by day, her anger increased. Hostile to the people who loved her, mad at the stories which always promised hope, furious at the words that couldn’t make her change. When she learned about the wretched state of herself, she was enraged.
But no amount of kicking and screaming changed anything. She prayed to God. She picked up the Bible looking for answers. She made a deal to be a better person and maybe this would all just go away. Every thing she could think of, any good decision she could make. There must be a way to beat this, she hoped. And still, those words stung her, “No one is righteous, not even one.” Better works and more prayers still did not change her evil heart. Her desperate actions only inched her closer to death.
And I had to watch every day as she heard the good news of a Savior. She couldn’t hear it. She was confused and angry. She was trying so hard to make a difference, yet still she couldn’t hear what was there from the beginning. The reality was that she was dying. Then one day she just stopped. Nothing. Her emotion-filled heart and the active hands couldn’t get out of bed. There was nothing she could do. Apathy pressed down, weighting her every step. Nothing. She couldn’t fight back. She had no energy even to shut out the stories any more. Exhausted. And finally she heard.
She was already dead.
How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:2-4 ESV)
Two weeks old, my daughter was drowned. In Baptism she was buried with Christ. She had been dead to sin and alive in Christ for most of her life. But at the same time, she has existed as a body and soul that craves the darkness. A few months ago, I had to tell her the truth about herself: She’s a body of death that often looks and feels more real. You’re dying. You’re dead. There is nothing you can do to fix it. But I also told her the truth about herself: She has been given the free gift of life, peace, and reconciliation by the sacrifice of Christ. You are alive, and there is nothing you did to deserve this. I had to watch her struggle, fight, and gasp for breath. I had to watch my daughter remember her death. Again, as she always was, she is set free to be who God already called her to be.