When it comes to bad news about one’s health, there is always the hope that somehow we can dodge a bullet. Health crises can, at least, allow you to dodge the bullet. Other crises, such as the awful shooting live on TV in the US yesterday of the reporter and cameraman, come quickly, catastrophically, and without warning. The fear-ridden face of that young journalist seems seared into my brain. Until the next fear-ridden face on the next innocent, that is. Sometimes it just feels like a torrent.
Just this week I have been privy to three conversations with friends in church and ministry that have life-affecting or ending, devastating consequences. Three conversations to weep and pray over.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
Three gut punches that left me reeling, never mind how it has left the person and their inter-connected people concerned. Some of those inter-connected people are us. How these things will work out we cannot be fully sure, but I can posit a good idea, hence the tears. Not all of them will dodge the bullet.
Funny saying really, “Dodging the bullet”. It always reminds me of The Matrix and the slow-mo moving out of the way that Neo performs just one too many times by the end of the franchise. How clever am I?, it seems to say.
And I remember dodging such a bullet myself. Five years ago, being sick with something not as bad as they told me as I was sick with. Still here five years later, despite what I was initially told.
“Dodged a bullet there!” people would say to me, as if I had a hand in it. As if I were Neo.
I hope you know we won’t be dodging a bullet. Not because we can’t dodge it, but because what we face – death – is not a bullet. It is a heat-seeking missile. So I dodged it five years back. Perhaps you have in the past too. But that means nothing. The confronting reality of what the doctor told me five years ago hasn’t simply whistled past my ear and embedded itself in the wall, allowing me to dust off my hands, “Phew, dodged a bullet there!”
No, it has circled around, having missed its target and is even now tracking me, sniffing me out, like the heat-seeking missile it is. It is interested in me. It is stalking me down. It can sense the warmth emanating from my breathing lungs, my pumping heart, my sun-soaked skin, my blood-filled brain.
And of my nearest and dearest. Of you.
Perhaps you don’t like my analogy. Perhaps you are fit, healthy, on the move, not interested in stopping off at illness or tragedy. Perhaps. Maybe another metaphor works for you. Maybe you are a runner. If you are then the Chase Race is a better analogy.
Know what a Chase Race is? It’s a race in which you are chased. By a car. By a slow moving car. By a slow moving car down a huge long stretch of road. And as the car catches up with you, you are out of the race. The last person to be caught on that long straight highway by that slow inexorable auto, is the winner.
And you all start running at the same time and the slow moving car follows you – slowly. Well slowly at first, or so it seems. Although the car never gets any faster, never moves up a gear, never puts the pedal to the metal, something else happens – to you. You get slower. All of you. Not at first, not all at once, but all of you eventually.
Now maybe the fatter, less fit get slower quickly. They get overtaken, while you, fitter and less fat, keep going at a steady pace, a pace much too quick for the car. For now. For now you feel vaguely pleased with yourself. Morally superior perhaps. Or even invincible. For now. If truth be told, the car is the winner.
The car will win. The heat-seeking missile will find its target.
Is there hope? There is. Hebrews 2:9 says this:
But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
The life giver himself – Jesus – tastes death for us – for everyone. The heat seeking missile approaches and he bares his chest to it. The Chase Race car bears down on him and he turns and stands in its way. He tastes death so that we do not, ultimately, have to experience its souring bitterness burning at the back of our throats as we breathe our last. He tastes death AND separation from his Father, so that when death does take us, he snatches it away, and death is swallowed up in life.
Bullet dodged forever.
If you’ve got any better news than that I’d like to hear it.