“Worth Dying For”

Categories: M. W. Bassford, Meditations

Among my many friends in Texas is a brother named Jerry Strode. We've known and worshiped with each other for years, but recently, a shared experience has drawn us much closer. Both of us have had to accept the fact of our own deaths.

Jerry's realization came a few years back when he developed a horrendous case of pulmonary fibrosis. In the space of about a month, he went from normal lung function to being unable to breathe on his own. He spent 22 weeks on oxygen, and part of that time, he was on a vent. His life was only saved by a last-minute double lung transplant.

To this day, Jerry’s health remains fragile. He is on immunosuppressive drugs so that his body does not reject his new lungs, but he knows that someday, that rejection will happen. When it does, it will be the end for him.

The first Wednesday of my Texas odyssey, Jerry and I spent a couple of very meaningful hours talking with one another. Both of us see the world very differently now, and it was fascinating to explore together the lessons that we have learned.

The next day, I tested positive for COVID. Just about my first thought was, “Oh, no! I've killed Jerry!” After all, COVID does a number on immunocompromised people. When I was laid up, I prayed more about his health than about anything else.

Thankfully, he never developed symptoms, and when I was able to come back to church, he was one of the first people I saw. I greeted him and told him how glad I was that I hadn't killed him.

In response, he waved his hand dismissively. “Don't worry about it,” he said. “I'm going to die anyway, and I can't think of a better reason to die than because I spent time with another Christian.” He told me next that in his estimation, a life of isolation wasn't worth living.

The era of COVID has been an era of fear. From the beginning, various authorities have done their best to make us afraid so that we would follow the precautions that they thought were appropriate: masking, social distancing, vaccinating, isolating, and so forth. As a result, many have spent the past couple of years terrified of getting COVID. They think that getting COVID and dying is the worst fate, unimaginably bad, and they will do anything to avoid it.

Jerry knows death better than just about anybody who’s still alive. He knows just how bad it is, and he knows that it’s not the worst. Loneliness is worse. Cutting yourself off from the people you love is worse. Above all, not having a rock-solid relationship with Jesus is worse. In fact, says Jerry, that’s the real worst.

None of the above means that we should not take precautions. Jerry had a mask on when I saw him that Sunday. Precautions aren’t the problem. The problem is when we allow fear, whether of COVID or anything else, to separate us from the things that really are worth dying for.