Coming to Grips with Mortality

A few months ago…

…an F3 tornado ripped through my place of work toward the end of my workday.  Though we were spared any loss of life or life-threatening injuries,  the company made it clear that we all had access to the company chaplains and counselors, and suggested that we managers keep an eye out for signs of traumatic stress in those under our charge.

With two manufacturing plants destroyed and hundreds of personal vehicles totaled, I expected there might be some financial stress, but really, except for a handful who were treated and released at the local hospital, we had all come through physically fine. This seemed clearly miraculous in view of the devastation wrought by the storm.

A good month later, during a monthly one-on-one conference session with one in my group, I was surprised that this person had actually written out a pretty textbook description of post-traumatic-stress symptoms he had been dealing with.  So much for my powers of observation, I had been completely missing it, even though I thought I was paying attention.

I reiterated the availability of counselors in an email and copied one of them in on the conversation.  This younger fellow had not followed through with the counselor a week later, which was his prerogative,  but it still got me to thinking further.

The company recognized the possibility of these traumatic issues, but I felt no effect whatever.  Why was that?  Was it something resulting from military training and the six years I served in the US NAVY? Somehow, that just didn’t seem like the reason.  Was I simply in denial?

When did I first have to deal with my own mortality?  It dawned on me as I considered, that I was pretty young.

Most my age will remember the cold-war drills at school, the patently ridiculous duck-and-cover practice.  These things affected kids all across the country with angst about a nuclear war we were ill-prepared to even imagine. The news media amplified the worries.  Every county courthouse had signs pointing to the fallout shelter in the basement.

As I thought more carefully, though, I remembered that in my particular part of the country, because it was sparsely populated, the US government decided to locate their first widely-deployed Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) system, based on the Atlas missile.  Many worried that these installations made our otherwise-remote area a high value target. Perhaps they did.  But over the course of a very few years, it became clear that we were in more danger from mishaps with our own missiles than from those of the other Cold-War participants.

Timeline:

Attitudes

As common as the school drills across the nation were for my generation, in my particular locale, none could miss the arms race and the often open silo blast doors that could be seen on the 70 mile drive from Portales to Roswell NM along highway 70.  The emergency response to the explosions was hard to miss also. The explosions were covered in the local newspapers without giving much real information.  As I recall the gist of my parents talk at the dinner table, the military would only confirm what everyone obviously already new from observation and reports from those civilians nearest to the damaged silos.

Holey Work

When My dad started working on the family fallout shelter, that was hard to miss too.  He used our farm tractor and front-end loader as deep as it was useful.  He talked to a contractor friend about borrowing a backhoe, but the impetus of the Cuban missile  crisis was short-lived and there was still harvesting to do.  The hole next to our well house gaped unmolested  in the arid Eastern New Mexico prairie for the next 20 months.

Boys seem to have a penchant for constructing hideouts and forts.  My brother and I had a habit of making them in the ground by digging a hole  and covering it with salvaged boards.  This was probably not the safest activity for us, though the holes were seldom very deep.  It really annoyed my dad, who had to remember where these pitfalls were if he walked around our ranch after dark.

When the fourth missile exploded in its silo in Frederick Oklahoma, putting my brother and I to work in the bomb shelter pit probably seemed to my dad like a natural solution to the random-hole problem.  We were clearly experienced excavators. 

We dutifully labored under the June sun in the fifteen foot square pit. I wore a white-painted army helmet liner to keep the sun off of my head. The hole was already three feet deep when we started.  The top soil was thin, probably less than a foot. Below was only caliche rock.  It would yield only to a pickaxe, the only useful tool available to us. Given enough effort, a shovelful could be loosed to be thrown laboriously out of the hole. We proved wholly inadequate to the task.

I give this level of detail to take us back to my original point about coming to grips with one’s mortality.  We could not work with shovel and pick in the  slowly deepening depression without the realization that it was like digging your own grave.  A chasm where one would only be forced to huddle if the world was poisoned above. The information about the half-life of nuclear material makes it clear even to ten year old boys that coming back out of a finished shelter would not ever be sunshine and roses. And we could not even finish the hole for it.

No Different, Really

I had to recognize that like my team mate at work.  I had to come to grips with the possibility of my own demise and had to deal with it emotionally. It’s just that my recognition came gradually at the age of ten and his came suddenly a little later in life.  I also have to remember that I always have the comfort described in Psalm 23:4 which others may not have found.

 

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Steadfast of Mind

 

The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock. – Isaiah 26:3-4

Me:
Good morning Father!

ABBA:
Good morning Jon!

Me:
It is not easy being steadfast in mind.

ABBA:
I spoke to you about that yesterday by My Holy Spirit.

Me:
You said to be mindful of what I focus my attention on.

ABBA:
I did. I Am able to see all. I see the beginning and the ending, for I Am the Alpha and the Omega; the First and the Last (Revelation 22:13). I Am unconstrained by time, for time is of the physical realm and I Am Spirit (John 4:24). I do not look only on the outward appearance, but upon even the thoughts and intents of the heart (Psalm 44:21).

You do not see as I see. I designed your mind to be able to focus. I am mindful that you are but dust (Genesis 2:7, Psalm 103:14). I Am not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). Instead, I bring order out of chaos (Genesis 1:2).

I intend You to seek Me for today (Hebrews 3:15). I gave a picture of this when I provided manna for the Israelites. I satisfied their hunger in the wilderness. They were instructed to gather what they needed for the day, plus some extra the day before the Sabbath, when they were to simply rest in Me. If they tried to store it up, the manna would spoil (Exodus 16).

Jesus told you not to worry about tomorrow, for each day has enough trouble of it’s own (Matthew 6:34). That does not mean you should not plan, only that you should not worry. Worry is focused on trouble. Proper planning focuses on achievement (Luke 14:28).

Me:
Thank You Father! Help me keep my eyes on Jesus my Example and my Savior (Hebrews 12:2) and to set my mind on things above (Colossians 3:1-2). Let my ears be attentive to Your Word and my hands ready to do your calling from the heart! I love You!

ABBA:

You are welcome! Those are prayers that I Am willing to help with, obviously, for I have told you to do these things for your own benefit; because I love you!

Instructions by Night

Psalm 16
Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.
I said to the
Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good besides You.”
As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who have bartered for another
god will be multiplied;
I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,
Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

I will bless the Lord who has counseled me;
Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
I have set the Lord continually before me;
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will dwell securely.
For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Me:
Good morning Father!

 

ABBA:
Good morning Jon!

 

Me:
“Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.” That phrase is key to the very existence of this Psalm isn’t it?

 

ABBA:
Look it up in the Hebrew concordance. “Mind”, does not capture the fullness of it.

 

Me:
O.K.

chilyotai_3629.htm

 

ABBA:
ḵil·yō·ṯay – the innermost part, deep enough to actually control what you do (hence “my reins”). This is “mind” only if operating in the Spirit by the power of the counsel given by Me. A purely intellectual approach to the scriptures – that is, apart from Me – will come up short. Toward the other extreme, it is unwise to try to rely on inner promptings except by also testing them against the scripture. You need need My whole counsel (Acts 20:27) and comfort (John 14:16).

 

Me:
I am grateful that You are willing to give all these helps to true communion with You. Left to what I can attain with only mental processes, I am prone to talk myself into an endless loop, able to make many sides of an examination seem plausible (Proverbs 18:17).

 

ABBA:
That is why I give them. I do not want you to be unaware of My love or of My provision for you. Neither do I want you to be deceived. I Am the Truth, I want you to walk in the truth.

 

Consider also, that this Psalm was penned by David, as in the night, he heard Jesus nighttime prayers in the garden, “…You will not suffer Your Holy One to suffer decay…”, twenty-eight generations forward. Do you think David would have been able to accurately see all these revelations of the Messiah, except by My Spirit, who is unfettered by time? I made them known to him and gave him a heart to record what he saw in the watches of the night, that when these things came to pass, there would be no doubt that that there is salvation in Jesus and that your redemption was planned from the outset.

 

Me:
Truly, I cannot read these words without recognizing they are a perfect fit for what is revealed of the heart of Jesus, expressing His confidence in You while staring a gruesome death in the face. I cannot forget that the death He suffered was not due Him. The suffering He endured was earned by me. I see in these words his faith being expressed that You would show Him the path of life. Not that You had already made it known, but that You would.

 

ABBA:
To you also, it has been revealed that He is the path of life (John 11:25). In faith, also, you rely on this promise.

 

Me:
Yes I do! And, I am more grateful for that fact than I can adequately express! Thank You! I love You!

 

ABBA:
You’re welcome! I love you!

 

Me:
Obviously!