With my apologies for his non-inclusive language because the personal nature of the writing is important, Frederick Buechner wrote:
When the worst happens, or almost happens, a kind of peace comes. I had passed beyond grief, beyond terror, all but beyond hope, and it was there, in that wilderness, that for the first time in my life I caught sight of something or what it must be like to love God truly. It was only a glimpse, but it was like stumbling on fresh water in the desert … I loved God because there was nothing else left. I loved him because he seemed to have made himself as helpless in his might as I was in my helplessness. I loved him not so much in spite of there being nothing in it for me but almost because there was nothing in it for me. For the first time in my life, there in that wilderness, I caught what it must be like to love God truly, for his own sake, to love him no matter what.
Hopefully you have never been to that place in life where the worst has happened, though many of us may have been close, or at least have felt as though it almost happened. There have been times when we have become so overwhelmed with fear or dread that we were left completely numb … but then we passed through to a place of peace where we knew that whatever would be would be. There was some comfort in simply knowing that it was beyond your control.
It is why I return again and again to that phrase St. Paul coined: “If we live we live unto the Lord, and if we die we die unto the Lord. Whether therefore we live or we die, we are the Lord’s.” When I was a young Methodist preacher, I used to wish that John Wesley had said something more profound or courageous or wise as he died. Now, with more of my days behind me than ahead, I understand that, in the end, perhaps the best any of us can ever hope for is to whisper with our final breath as he did: “And best of all, God is with us.”
Rev. Michael Piazza