My cousin, Zach, died this week.
Today we buried him.
I don’t believe that I have ever struggled to comprehend and grasp such a truth as this. Realizing that Zach is dead is harder for me to visualize and process than geometry. For those of you who know me, especially Hottie Hubby and my high school geometry teacher, then you will understand the severity of my inability or rather, desire, to process this new paradigm in my family’s life.
I have always taken it for granted that Zach would always be at family functions. He always entered the doorway with a musky, “Hey,” as one eyebrow was sightly raised and the corner of his lip turned upward. I could expect to hear, “Where have you been? Email me.” Even more recently, whenever I had my “Mommy Time” at Starbucks, I would expect to have him ring the doorbell of my Facebook account to chat. Nine times out of ten, those chats led to God.
And that is where Zach’s final conversation ended, as will ours.
It does seem a little crazy to me that a 21 year old relative would die. He was my cousin. Car crashes, such as his, happen only in the newspapers and on the 6’o’clock news, not to my Zach. But this terrible accident did enter into the story of my family’s life. And though we may hate it, it is an event that will forever shape us, mold our character, and influence the judgements we make when we are driving.
The pastor at Zach’s funeral pitched an excellent image of our adventure on earth.
Backpacking. My favorite kind of vacation.
To an individual who loves to hike, view nature on foot, live with little possessions, and camp, backpacking is the greatest vacation.
Time is taken to plan the route, dehydrate the food, streamline the contents of your pack, and give birth to the holiday. The first night in God’s creation is magical. Your tent emanates its unique scent of smoke, sweat, and the previous rain’s leftover moldy smell. Your Therma Rest is reasonably comfortable and you are grateful that your mummy bag creates a cocoon around your aching and tired body.
After the third night (or maybe the 5th), you are annoyed by the rustic nature of your tent. There isn’t enough room for you, your children, and the dog who hates the sound of coyotes. The luxuries of home are all too appealing (heaven?). Your tent feels like a thin eggshell from an unhealthy chicken. You are slightly sleep deprived from waking up every few hours to massage your numb arm. You know that it is possible to get good sleep and not wonder if your abode will weather the storm. Something inside of you nudges you that you weren’t made just for tent camping.
It is these very things that God wanted to remind the Israelites of when He instituted the forever statute the Israelites would celebrate by living in booths or tents for several days every harvest. This temporary shelter or tent was to remind them of the time when God led them out of Egypt and was their covering.
Our body is that tent. Our body doesn’t always keep out the sin. Our body doesn’t keep out the cancer. Our body doesn’t keep out the sunburn. Our body doesn’t keep out the gossip. Our body is hardly a shelter. Our body is a tent. A temporary dwelling. A vehicle by which we learn about God and choose to hike beside Him.
Zach was done with his tent. I don’t have to like it that he traded in his Coleman tent for God’s Mountain Hardwear tent. But it is a fact. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Because, you see, when it is time for the trip to be over and the tent put back into its stuff sack, all that matters is Jesus. Did He go on the trip, too?
I loved Zach. I will always treasure my memories of him. I loved his honesty and vulnerability. I loved his ability to love and his passion to protect. I knew that his tent didn’t always function the best. His tent had holes that frustrated him. And to be honest, he wasn’t perfect. But neither am I.
However, as Zach’s pastor so bluntly stated, when it came down to it last Sunday afternoon, all that mattered was Jesus. Zach camped with Jesus. That doesn’t make him perfect. But Jesus makes our tent perfect.
Yup. Zach took a major upgrade on his tent. I’ve got my reservation in for the latest and greatest tent designed by Jesus. Do you?