It’s been about two and a half weeks since our sweet Zekey passed away. I think about him every day, almost all day. But when I think of him now, I don’t usually remember the sweet, mischievous little guy running our house in Westerville. Nor do I think of the sickly little boy bedridden at my parents’ house in Toledo. No, when I think of Zeke now, I see a tall, handsome young man with tons of dark hair, big brown eyes, and a big smile on his face. I see him standing in front of me, without seizing, without twitching. He is ready to talk to me. We’re about to have our first conversation.
This is Zeke as he is now, in heaven with Jesus awaiting his resurrection. He is whole. He is healthy. He is untainted by that damnable disease.
Although Zeke’s life was short, and he was sick for almost half of it, he has left a profound impression on this world. If you’re reading this, then it probably means that his life and death have moved you in unexpected and unlikely ways. I believe that this is God calling you.
Our son was so photogenic, even up to the very end. As a toddler, he was always hamming it up for the camera. I sorted through hundreds of pictures and video clips to try to tell the story of his short but powerful life as best I could.
The music we chose for the video is “Your Great Name” by Natalie Grant. This song has a very special place in the life of our family, and Breena would sing it to him often in order to soothe him. He always responded to the sound of her singing with peace and joy.
We held out for healing. We prayed for it. We laid our hands on his head. We called out for God’s kingdom to come on earth, in Zeke, as it is in heaven. But the healing we wanted never came, and finally, after far too long, Zeke took his last breath at 3:00 this morning, passing from life to death, and on into eternal life.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
Zeke is with Jesus. I’m jealous of them both.
I’m jealous of Zeke because he gets to rest from all of his trials. He gets to see what I can only hope for. He gets to know Jesus face-to-face. He is made whole, today, in the presence of his Savior and Creator.
I’m jealous of Jesus because he gets to talk to Zeke. Because of this disease, I was never able to have a real conversation with him. He could only respond nonverbally because the speech function in his brain was not allowed to develop. But now that he’s made whole, the first person he ever gets to converse with is Jesus. So I’m jealous.
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
Our hope is built upon the resurrection of Jesus. We don’t imagine that Zeke is whole or that we will see him again because we are looking for ways to comfort ourselves. Rather, we comfort ourselves in the historical fact of Jesus’s resurrection and what that means about the future for all who believe in him.
Zeke’s bed is empty, and I feel that same emptiness in my heart. All of the pillows and blankets that protected his flailing feet and arms from hitting the bedrails are still there, but his body is conspicuously absent. My heart is wrung dry. My stomach is churning.
For half of his life he suffered from the effects of seizures. Now, for eternity, his body is made new, never to seize again. I rejoice that his suffering is over. I lament that he is gone.
My sweet boy, the next time I see you we must have a long chat.
In his book The God First Life, Stovall Weems, pastor of Celebration Church in Orlando, wants you to uncomplicate your life by doing it God’s way. Working from the familiar passage of Matthew 6:33, Stovall writes that God will provide all the things we need in life, but he has to remain first in our lives, “regardless of my questions or regardless of whether I understood something or how I felt about it.” (17) When we put God first, we get a new family, a new life, and new freedom. The life we instinctively want and pursue, he argues, is only available through “God-first living.” (20)
A life of anxiety is never an issue of unmet need but always an issue of disordered priorities. -Stovall Weems, 22
Stovall uses the three “new” promises – a new family, a new life, and new freedom – to organize the book. Our new family is God’s family, into which we are adopted by faith in Jesus Christ, and with whom we are called to do life together. This new family is vital because “community is where God shapes us into the image of Christ.” (63) Our new life is the life in the Spirit, empowered by God himself to do more and become more than we ever thought possible. This new life is also a life of worship, prayer, and service. Finally, the new freedom we have is the grace we enjoy from being set free from sin. We are free from the sins of our past and empowered to live for God in the present. Putting God first, walking out the powerful promise of Matthew 6:33, is the key to all of this. Stovall concludes, “you will find that a world where you are not at the center is a world where happiness and blessing can be experienced – God’s way.” (154)