Glory Beyond

By Jonathan Cortina
By Kuruvilla (K.O.) Oommen
By John Dyer
By Abe Paul
By Lauren Geppert
By Jennifer Durrett
By Penny Jones
By Amy Owen
By Jill Asibelua
By Madi McGraw
By Jared Barnett
By Paul Martin
By Jeremy Varnell
By Norm Headlam
By Kristi Herring
By Alban Snider
By Sissy Mathew
By Glenda Root
By Oscar Camacho, Jr
By Shannon Pugh
By Al Palamara
By Don Robb
By Mike Pope
By Melanie Mechsner
By Kyla Mikusek
By Michelle Garza
By Armando Galvan
By Jeremiah Betron
By Camille Holland
By Rod Myers
By Ruby King
By Shannon Lewis
By Susan Weiser
By Charles Pierce
By Chase Studdard
By Crystal Elwell
By Darcy Peterson
By Jason Elwell
By Amy Aupperlee
By Jodie Niznik
By Tiffany Stein
By Barry Jones
By Erin Hargrave
By Katie Geurin
By Bryan Eck
By Ginger Holland
By Tricia Kinsman
By Jason Stein
By Bob Downey
By Nat Pugh
By Sarah Kemper
By Lynda Reynolds
By Dana Myers
By Craig Pierce
By Jim Woodward
By Lindsey Sobolik
By Scott McClellan
By Michelle Tibbatts
By Andy McQuitty
By Pete Hyndman
By Kevin Dial
By Cathy Barnett
By Ryan Sanders
By Casey Pruet, The Grace Alliance
By Sharon Arrington
By Lauren Chapin
By Betsy Paul
By Alberto Negron
By Kelly Jarrell
By Michelle Mayes
By Jenn Wright
By Jill Jackson
By Terri Moore
By Robyn Wise
By Katherine Holloway
By Richard Ray
By Kurtlery Knight
By Bruce Hebel
By Neil Tomba
By Tony Bridwell
By Grayson McGovern
By Luke Donohoo
By Kathy Whitthorne
By Mike Moore
By Wade Raper
By Mike Gwartney
By Jo Saxton
By Dieula Previlon
By Jonathan Cude
By Ken Lawrence
By Jay Hohfeler
By Barb Haesecke
By Lindsay Casillas
By JoAnn Hummel
By Shawn Small
By Alice McQuitty
By Jonathan Murphy
By Peggy Norton
By Brent McKinney
By Irving Bible Church
By Irving Bible Church
By Ashley Tieperman
By Betsy Nichols
By Trey Grant
By Debbie Lucien
By Sue Edwards
By Suzie Robinson
By Paul Smith

The Cowtown Marathon was a couple of months ago in Fort Worth. I feel wonderfully judgmental as I stand outside of this phenomenon. Never have I had even a hamster-sized desire to sign up. The reasons are manifold, but mostly it’s because I am against unnecessary bodily discomfort. It seems to me that marathons are mostly about being able to stick a decal on your Subaru Outback that says “26.2” and interject the word “marathon” into conversations, much like “gluten-free” and “non-GMO.”

Also: marathons are a mockery of running. In real life, we run when we are panicked, late, or embroiled in some other human tumult. The first ancient marathoner, the one who collapsed at mile 26. 2 was, I believe, running to announce a great victory, but he is the exception. Running is an (only sometimes) necessary evil, like when I jog for exercise. Four times a week, I force my body out onto the sidewalks to run two miles, which is 416 miles a year, which totals SIXTEEN MARATHONS A YEAR. I run sixteen marathons a year and I don’t get one bit of credit. Nobody gives me a decal for my car. Nobody hands me bananas or shouts, “you can do it!” from their congregated lawn chairs.  
 
Why do we actively seek out meaningless pain when life seems to have meaningless pain enough? Maybe if we control when it starts, how long it lasts, and when it ends, it gives us the control that usually eludes us. There is plenty of pain and death around us, lurking around our lives, sniffing at the edges of things. And if we can’t look death in the face, I suppose at least we can mock it by marathon.  
 
Besides the Resurrection, the most death-mocking scene in Scripture is the stoning of Stephen. Not because he’s delivered from stoning or even because he’s raised again from death. Neither of those things happens. 
 
The story unfolds: Stephen — a man “full of God’s grace and power,” whose face looked like an angel (Acts 6:15) — sat before his accusers. The Jewish leadership was a high-court-turned-lynch mob after Stephen preaches a famous sermon accusing them of killing God himself. 
 
When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:54-55).
 
The word used to describe Stephen “looking up into heaven” is atenizo, apparently a stronger descriptive more like our word for gaze.  
 
Then Stephen said, “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (v. 56).
 
Once he said this, Stephen was dragged from the building, taken outside of the city, and stoned to death. 
 
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep (v. 59-60).
 
This death is deeply mysterious, and yet quite familiar. Stephen experiences a supernatural moment of eye contact — atenizo — with Jesus, and it ushers him into death, through death. Mysterious. And then all at once the scene seems familiar: just as Jesus commits his spirit into the hands of his Father, so Stephen benedicts his spirit into the hands of Jesus. Just as Jesus prays for the forgiveness of his murderers, so Stephen begs that his killers’ sins not be held against them. Where Jesus gave up his spirit, Stephen fell asleep. What kind of power enables a death like this? Could I also midwife my own different deaths into deaths that image Christ?
 
There is not a day I don’t face deaths of various kinds, or feel the sting of past ones. We face bereavements of different shapes and sizes each day — especially this week, as we mourn those who very publicly lost their battle with depression. How do we endure?
 
Maybe, like Stephen, the first step is to look up. And then to ATENIZO like my life (and death) depends on it. Maybe, like Stephen, I’m offered a glimpse beyond what I perceive is ending or being taken away into something totally above, where Christ is ruling all things at the side of the Father. 
 
Maybe death’s door is just another door to him.  
 
And so we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who endured death as a forerunner of all for whom death will someday be made untrue. Thus begins the mockery: Death, you’re just a DOOR. An aging, swinging door that’s about to be unhinged; not an unscalable mountain or a black abyss. You’re the screen door that slams its flimsy slam. You’re only one among God’s many access points to glory — in good company with cellos, with beet-red sunsets and the tang of lime and the running of sand between fingers. Those things will last, but you will not. Not forever. So I will gaze beyond you, Death. You’re just a door with a ripped screen, and glory beyond. 

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