[copied from Rallyhood 1/21/2017 – on the passing of Kenneth Brown]
When working with nuclear weapons, nuclear reactors, or even medical X-rays, there is a guiding principle that will keep you alive. You are to keep your exposure “As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) with three tools:
- Time – Spend as little time as possible with the radiation source.
- Distance – Keep your distance from the source of radiation.
- Shielding – Protect yourself with a shield.
We have spent most of the last year interacting with each other on this Rallyhood site dedicated to the wonderful life of Ken Brown. We have encouraged Patti and have received encouragement from Patti, Ken, and each other.
Many have mentioned their amazement at Patti and Ken’s strength in all of this. However, when you compliment their strength to them, they seem to demur. Why?
I’m not privy to their inner thoughts, but it is likely because they see their inner struggles. But I also know that they are aware of this important fact:
Their strength stems from their shielding, not from their self-made inner fortitude.
[Ephesians 6:16 ESV] 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
Today is the celebration service for Ken in Austin. I am looking forward to meeting more of his colleagues in the UT Business School, his neighbors, and many of you face to face rather than over the Internet.
We will share great stories and memories and it will be wonderful and subtly melancholy. I have one story though that I want to share in writing so that all may read it and gain comfort by it.
I had the privilege of visiting with Ken a day or two before he and Patti entered hospice care.
Without going into too many medical details, Ken had lost the ability to speak and swallow. Antibiotics were keeping pneumonia at bay. Without the ability to speak we were worried that Ken would not be able to communicate any worries to us if we made the decision to enter hospice care.
It was decided that I would visit with Ken. I was to explain to him what was going on with his swallowing. I wanted to walk him through the next steps. And I wanted very much for him to communicate back to me that he understood.
Using all the information from Dr. Annapureddi, Patti, and the nurses, I let Ken know that he would become more and more sleepy as his breathing became less and less efficient. I let him know that this was not going to be painful or distressful. And then knowing Ken’s faith, I said that in a few days he was going to go to sleep and wake up with Jesus.
Words can’t contain the emotional impact of staring your brother in the eye while you say these things.
I still needed to know if he understood, and most importantly for Patti and all of us, if he was ready.
So I said, “If you are ready, please squeeze my hand”.
I was worried that I would confuse a tremor for a squeeze. I did not want to pass on to Patti a tentative signal, and I did not want to be tempted to say it was a clear signal when it wasn’t.
Ken left no doubt. I was holding his left hand, and he reached over with his right hand. He grabbed my arm and squeezed as hard as he could.
We blinked a knowing blink at each other, and then we hugged for a long time.
Ken’s “shield of faith” was strong and we are right to have hope.
We saw a similar faith and hope on display when King David lost a child.
[2 Samuel 12:21-23 HCSB] 21 His servants asked him, “What did you just do? While the baby was alive, you fasted and wept, but when he died, you got up and ate food.” 22 He answered, “While the baby was alive, I fasted and wept because I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let him live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I’ll go to him, but he will never return to me.”
“I will go to him” – that is the hope we have in Christ.
Teaching on a secular campus, I am sensitive to the discomfort that “Bible talk” can cause. To use the radiation analogy, some people spend as little time with it and like to keep their distance from it if possible.
(If this is you, please keep reading out of curiosity if nothing else.)
The Bible can be confusing, especially if one has a culturally-confused view of God as a grumpy tyrant watching your every move in order to kill you if you step out of line.
Let me ask you to place a different vision in your mind – one where God’s holiness shines like the sun.
The Sun is a furnace of nuclear fusion. You can’t get near it without suffering a lethal dose of radiation.
All of the troubling verses and the great themes of the Bible make sense in light of this analogy. God is holy. You are not, and you know it. That is why you protect yourself with ALARA. Remember:
- Time – Spend as little time as possible with God – the source of holiness
- Distance – Keep your distance from God
- Shielding – Protect yourself with a shield.
Notice shielding is the only way to get close to a radiation source, and it is the only way to get close to God. But what is shielding in this spiritual context?
We don’t have to keep our DISTANCE from God’s holiness, or minimize our TIME interacting with a holy God, because Jesus Christ is our SHIELDING, protecting us in the presence of holiness.
[Galatians 3:27 ESV] 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Like a lead blanket in the dentist’s chair.
[Romans 13:12-14 ESV] 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Who is this Jesus? (External evidence for his life.)
[John 1:1-14 ESV] 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. … 16 … from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
In the context of our analogy, this grace John speaks of is the shielding. Christ’s holiness surrounds us, protects us, and over time changes us – covering our sin and making us holy. We may now spend all our TIME at zero DISTANCE from God thanks to the SHIELDING holiness of Christ.
Ken has this shielding, and he is experiencing the indescribable holiness of God. It is my deepest desire that we (including you) would join him.
By God’s grace,
My thoughts on the impact of Ken’s life and death: Double Bounce