Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On "In Flanders Fields"

I have lived a full life.

This realization struck me today, while reading "In Flanders Fields", the deeply mournful ode by John McCrae.

"We are the dead. Short days ago / we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow / loved, and were loved, and now we lie / in Flanders fields."

And we shall go to them, but they shall never return again to us. The searing loss of McCrae's close friend, the Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, 22 years old, still burns through the poem.

If I should die, would people reflect that I went too soon, or led a full life? I hope they would conclude the latter. How can I say I have not? If I have Christ, the Christ Jesus recorded by John "so that your joy may be complete", how can I claim any defect or shortfall? And if my God is king above all gods, ruling omnipotently from His throne in heaven, ordaining whatsoever cometh to pass, how can I say what is too soon? If God has decreed it, who am I to answer back?

Yes, the dead loved and were loved, but God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And the dead in Christ are loved with an everlasting love. "If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, 'Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,' even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you."

This is no resigned fatalism, this contentment in the face of all, it is a positive affirmation that my God rules, and knows what is best for me and those around me. I do not know if John McCrae had this hope, or Lt. Helmer, but the certainty of the resurrection, because of Christ's resurrection, and the remission of sins found in his blood by faith is the only hope that can walk the valley of the shadow of death without fear.

"In Flanders Fields" - John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

"'Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.' Thomas said to him, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.'" John 14:1-7

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