When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15: 54-55
Sometimes, as I talk about what I’m doing, what God is doing, I use this phrase:
You go with me. And it’s true. I remember being a little girl, listening to preaching and missionary stories, and hearing of a woman that had worked her whole life to be a missionary to China, and ended up not being able to because of her health. She spent the rest of her life supporting those who could go. And her reward is the same, because while her feet never touched the ground, those missionary’s wouldn’t have without her either.
Every time I say that phrase, that was the story I thought of. It’s a different story now. Because there was one time I said it and I had no idea.
It was the day I got back to Maine, after six months split between Wisconsin and Europe, we had arrived back at one o’ clock that morning. I was slated to share with my home church (Machias Christian Fellowship) that night, and I was underprepared and thoroughly exhausted. I shared stories of dancing in the rain with refugees in Stockholm, praying peace over Syria, and praying through the red light district of Berlin. I talked about Kristiansand, about my next steps. I couldn’t fully picture the crowd that was there today, but I remember taking note of all the new faces. Despite my exhaustion and under-preparedness, God moved. Isn’t that just who he is?
God spoke to the heart of Jon Popham that night. I didn’t know Jon well, just as the husband of friend. They hadn’t been married long when I left. I had held their little one at my friend Emily’s wedding. Jon told Melinda a few times that he wanted to give something to help.
He went to be with Jesus three weeks later.
His wife showed up at my house late last night with a card. And that something he wanted to give. From me and Jon.
You go with me.
Jon goes to Norway with me. Never had that phrase I’ve said a thousand times become so clear to me. That even in death, even in tragedy, the legacy of a life redeemed. What I did know about Jon is that he was a man who loved Jesus, who loved his family. He was a silly guy, I remember learning as I went through pictures of him with his wife.
Oh death, where is your sting? Oh hell, where is your victory?
And that’s the thing: I had never put together just how defiant that statement is. Death, you don’t get to win this time! You don’t get to have this one, even in death, Jesus wins! Where Jesus is, he’s knocked the teeth straight out of the grip hell and death had over us, and we get to have a redemption that lasts even beyond the grave.
So Jon lives on, Jon goes with me. The work God had done stand more powerful than even death. Our story never just ends here. When we pour into others, when we stand obedient, when Christ choses to redeem something, even in death, it stands redeemed.
So thank you, Jon and Melinda. As I get on that airplane in a few days, you go with me
Jon and Melinda at their wedding.