Elizabeth Rice Handford Thinking about my 95th birthday
My family and friends celebrated my 95th birthday the other day, with balloons and food and gifts and signs in my front yard. I guess it’s true; my body’s been saying so for some time.
I remember talking to Walt’s dear mother one holy day when she was in her late 80’s. She was considering the prospect of her own death. “I’m not really afraid,” she said to me earnestly. “It’s just that I’ve never done it before.” Nor have I.
But it’s obvious that some day, perhaps very soon, I will leave this tattered tent. I won’t make that dark journey alone. I won’t have to wait until I arrive in Heaven to see Jesus. He promised me He’d be with me every step through that valley of the shadow of death. So I find myself singing a song I learned years ago: “I am nearer home today than I’ve ever been before.”
Regrets? Certainly. About my own failures. I’ve not always been the kind of mother I wanted to be. I have sometimes disappointed my friends. I am sometimes unable to meet the spiritual needs of those who come to me for help.
Regrets about that surrender I made to Jesus when I was ten years old? Never! In 1937 I saw a picture in This Week of little Chinese children fleeing in terror from Japanese soldiers. I asked God that day to please let me give children like them the Gospel. In time He gave me Walt Handford, who passionately served Him all his life, and I had the joy of ministering by his side for 66 years. No, I have no regrets about having given my life to serve God.
The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives us a sweet and vivid picture of what the home-going of a Christian is like. He writes,
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down–when we die and leave these bodies–we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God Himself and not by human hands.
We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies.
Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life.
God Himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee He has given us His Holy Spirit. So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord.
That is why we live by believing and not by seeing.
2 Corinthians 5:1-7 (nlt)
Thank God that promise of hope is available to every soul on earth! Please help me share it with those who’ve not yet heard the wonderful good news that Jesus died so that we might live. Then they too can sing, “I am nearer home today than I’ve ever been before.”