We were studying the last chapter in the book of John. Jesus was having a conversation with Peter and part of it centered on Peter’s death. We know from history that Peter outlived most, if not all, of the other disciples. The majority of them died as martyrs. What a wonderful, glorious way to die – as a martyr.
Then Jesus tells Peter “When you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” I think most of us do not want to face a long drawn out illness, the type of ending Jesus knew was ahead for Peter. I worked for many years as a caregiver in nursing homes and found it interesting that some people who didn’t even know who they were, or where they were anymore, could still quote scripture along with me and sing every verse of an old hymn.
It was the next thing Jesus said, John 21:19, that made me stop and think. “Jesus said this to let him (Peter) know by what kind of death he would glorify God.” There is little doubt that most caregivers glorify God, by their acts of kindness, their loyalty. Didn’t Jesus once mention giving a glass of water in His name? But this is the first time I thought about the one being cared for glorifying God in their situation. How can we do that?
As I live with a terminal illness (ALS) I can’t help but speculate on what lies ahead for me. I have read many books written by people who died as a result of ALS. Susan Spencer-Wendel wrote most of her book, UNTIL I SAY GOOD-BYE, on her iPhone, using her right thumb, the last finger still working. Evelyn Bell wrote much of her book, CRIES OF THE SILENT, one word at a time with a laser pointer. She talked about how painful a wrinkle in the sheet could be. How difficult it was when, because of weak neck muscles, her head flopped forward but no one noticed and lifted it for her. The frustration of not being able to wipe your own running nose, or brush away a hair that’s tickling your face.
Jesus indicated that Peter would be in that type of situation, having to depend on others for every movement. How does one glorify God when you can’t move and can’t speak?
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul. And worship His holy name.” That song says nothing about speaking our praise, lifting our hands, or dancing for joy. Even though right now I can dress and feed myself, drive my car and go about my business, I don’t know what the end of my life will be. But…the last verse of that song says: “And on that day when my strength is failing, The end draws near and my time has come. Still my SOUL will sing Your praise unending, Ten thousand years and then forevermore.”
It takes discipline to not allow anger and bitterness to take over. But yes, like Peter, we can glorify God no matter by what kind of death we exit this life; even without words or actions. BLESS THE LORD, O MY SOUL, O MY SOUL, WORSHIP HIS HOLY NAME.