Dear Friends, thanks for joining us for my short story, “Death – the Secret to Life.” Resurrection Sunday is upon us—traditionally called Easter—but so many are ignorant of its spiritual significance. We know that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, but what does that mean for our lives? Romans Chapters Five & Six really lay the foundation for us to grasp that the death of Christ BOUGHT us so much, but it is His resurrected life that BRINGS us so much MORE.
I hope the following story inspires you to find out for real that the resurrection of Christ isn’t just a nice story. It has practical purpose within the lives of believers to bring us more fully into living the new life in Christ. If you’d like to consider this topic further, along with your Bible reading, I encourage you to read Watchman Nee’s book, The Normal Christian Life. (Click the link to read my review of this powerful book, and to find links to retailers.) The Telbat Team wishes you a blessed Resurrection Sunday Remembrance. See you on the next page!—David Telbat
Death – the Secret to Life
A Christian Short Story
by D.I. Telbat
It was Resurrection Sunday, and Theo Grant was standing in line. He wasn’t happy about standing in line, but the youth leader, Ron Nelson, had seemed uncharacteristically firm that Theo and the other nine youths wait against the wall.
Theo looked up and down the hallway of the nursing home. It was quiet. Visiting hours that evening were long over, but somehow, Mr. Nelson and his wife, Sandy, had talked the staff into allowing his youth group to visit. This was not how Theo wanted to spend his evening. He didn’t mind youth group activities, especially with Alicia Archer attending every Sunday evening. But standing in line at a nursing home?
Nothing about the outing was normal. Mr. and Mrs. Nelson had taken them to visit the old folks at the home before. Theo didn’t much like the smells of the rooms or the meaningless conversations with the residents, but he’d always gone along with it.
But that night, they weren’t moving in small groups from one room to the next. Instead, they were standing in line, waiting to go into only one room. Alicia was inside it now, and Theo wondered what was happening in there. Who was the resident? He’d never kept track of the old people at church, but he guessed someone he didn’t know had left the church and had been placed in the home.
“You’ll get your turn, Theo,” Mr. Nelson said, smiling warmly. “Just wait.”
Theo nodded and smiled back, trying to stand still. After all, he was one of the deacon’s sons, so he was expected to behave and act appropriately. But really, he was thinking about Alicia. He wished he would’ve gotten in line behind her so he was closer to the door. Maybe then, he could’ve heard what was going on with her inside the room now. Much to his aggravation, he’d been fifth to climb out of the church van, and Mr. Nelson had led them into the building single file.
Suddenly, Alicia emerged from the room. One hand covered her mouth, only partially hiding her face from Theo and the others as she sobbed. Without stopping at the line of youths, she broke into a run down the hallway and went out the door.
No one in line moved. Theo was thinking quickly, considering what horror this was that could make Alicia weep so publicly. Mr. Nelson wasn’t responding, and his wife, who was visiting with the nurses at the station nearby, wasn’t going after Alicia to comfort her. No one was doing anything!
“This isn’t what I came for,” Theo thought to himself. He came to youth group for the games and laughter, and of course, the girls. With strain, he’d always tolerated the Bible studies Mr. Nelson led them through, though even in those brief quiet times, his mind was usually wandering—sports, school, music, and socializing. Being a teenager was complicated enough without Mr. Nelson now adding some haunting experience like this to their lives!
Mr. Nelson urged the next teen into the room. Theo glanced at his watch to time the duration. Five minutes later, the youth exited with his head down, obviously disturbed. Or embarrassed. Or maybe disgusted? Theo couldn’t read the boy’s expression before he also walked quickly down the hallway and left the building.
The next youth went into the room, and Theo considered opting out of this youth group experience completely. Waiting in the van with Alicia had to be a million times better than waiting against the wall . . . for what?
The boy emerged from the room after four minutes. This fit soccer player who Theo had always thought of as tough, was in tears, too. It seemed the boy wasn’t so tough now.
The next teen went in and stayed longer, but came out shaken minutes later. The girl in front of Theo finally went in, and he steeled himself for his turn. Whatever it was, he was determined to remain strong. Nothing would make him cry, not in front of the others. He would be an immoveable rock. No scared-straight techniques or shocking ideas were about to upset him!
The girl exited the room, weeping aloud, and left like the rest. Theo stared after her.
“Go ahead, Theo,” Mr. Nelson said.
“I’m not into this.” Theo shook his head, aware that anything contrary he said or did would make it back to his parents, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t a fool. “I, um, have my dignity.”
“Your dignity?” Mr. Nelson nodded. “I see. What about next year, and the year after that, and ten years from now? You’ll always wonder what you could’ve learned from him. Forget about your dignity for a minute. This is about giving a dying man a few minutes of your life.”
“He’s dying?” Theo shook his head. Of course he was dying. Look where they were! “Who is it?”
Mr. Nelson gestured at the open door.
Theo tried to resist, but he could think of no other arguments, and now he really was curious.
He walked through the door into a dimly lit room, a wall light above the still form of a thin man in a hospital bed. Though he wanted to stand at the foot of the bed, Theo also wanted to get close enough to identify the man, if he could. Hesitantly, he moved up to the left side of the bed and leaned over what looked like an ancient, sleeping man. His face wasn’t familiar to Theo.
“Who’s there?” the man asked weakly. He didn’t open his eyes, but he did raise his bony hand. “What’s your name?”
“Theo.” He cleared his throat. “Theo Grant.”
“Theo Grant.” The man’s face twitched into a smile. “How old are you now, Theo?”
The man’s hand remained raised, but Theo didn’t want to touch it. He clenched his own fist and didn’t see any way around it. With a grimace, he slid his hand into the large, cold, wrinkled hand of the old man.
“I’m fourteen now.”
“Fourteen.” The man spoke in almost a whisper. “Your father—I knew him long ago. I led him to Christ when he worked at the car garage on Florida Street. You weren’t born yet.”
“You know my dad?”
“I knew God would do a mighty work through your father. He had a heart of a servant early on. But what about you?”
“Me? I’m just fourteen, sir.”
“Fourteen. Yes. About the age David was when he fought Goliath. About the age of Daniel when he was taken to Babylon to stand for God among the pagans. Just boys. But they had courage even then. Courage for their God. Last I saw you, Theo, I prayed for you. Have you any courage yet?”
“Courage?” Theo looked over his shoulder to make sure no one had come into the room, just in case he said something embarrassing. “I don’t know. I guess so.”
“Do you want to be a man, Theo?”
“Courage isn’t so much given as it is grown by exercise. You must find good reason to be courageous, Theo. Courageous for God.”
“I’m just a high school student, sir.”
“Today is Resurrection Sunday, isn’t it?”
“Do you know that Jesus died so you could be forgiven?”
“Do you believe it?”
“Yeah, I believe it.”
“The death of Jesus, Theo, needs to be your death as well. If you believe He died for you, then you must die to yourself for Him.”
“No, it’s not okay.” The old man’s hand tightened. “It will take courage, Theo, for you to truly live for Jesus. You must die to your interests and your plans. You must—while you are still young.”
“Yes, sir.” Theo was a little confused, but he guessed the old man’s mind was mostly gone and even more confused. “I’m listening.”
“Have you died with Christ, Theo?”
“I’m . . . not sure.”
“Children who grow up in the church take so much for granted.” The old man turned his head, his eyes still closed. “You believe you are forgiven, but you don’t know if you have died with Christ?”
“You mean, like, die on the inside?”
“How can you ever live for Jesus if you have not yet died to Theo?”
A silent moment passed. Theo frowned. Had the man fallen asleep?
“I don’t understand you. Excuse me?”
“Where is Christ alive in your life, Theo?”
“Well, I go to church, and I read my Bible in the mornings. My dad is one of the deacons, you know.”
“None of those things mean you’re a new creature, Theo. Think! Where is Christ alive—really alive—in your life?”
“I . . . don’t know what you want me to say.”
“Ooooh.” The man groaned, his face cringing mildly. “This is it. You will be the last one.”
“Excuse me? Do you want me to get someone?”
“No. The pain will pass soon.” The old man squeezed his hand harder. “You must listen closely.”
“You will never live courageously for Jesus unless you believe you have died with Him. And then you must believe that you are dead so that His resurrected life will move through you. That is the key.”
“Die to live?”
“Yes. It’s the whole point of the resurrection. Jesus didn’t just die for you, Theo. He rose for you as well. You must learn to draw from His life completely, as much if not more than you receive from His death. He rose for you. You must move through His death, and know the true pain of it for yourself, before you can surrender to His new life.”
“Okay.” Theo surprised himself by leaning closer, realizing these weren’t the ramblings of a confused man, but something more. “You mean I should be humble?”
“Not just humble, but empty. Empty for Him. Let His death be real to you, Theo, and you will find that His life is like water to a thirsty soul.”
“It’s real to me. I mean, I’ll think about this.”
“It’s the secret of life, young man.” The old man’s eyes opened. They were bright blue, almost shining. “Death is the secret to life. Tell everyone.”
“I will.” Theo lifted his other hand to grip the old man’s hand with both hands. “I’ll tell them. I think I understand. It’s in the Bible, right sir? I’ll figure it out. I’ll—”
The brightness in the old man’s eyes faded frighteningly fast. Theo felt a chill, and the stillness in the room seemed almost loud.
Gasping after a quick exhale, Theo realized he’d been holding his breath. The old man was dead, but he still held his hand. Theo was the last one to be with him. Why me? Shaking his head, Theo felt tingling in his sinuses as tears began to well up.
The words had been confusing to Theo, and yet they had made perfect sense in his soul. They were convicting words, and inspiring words, all at once.
After a few minutes, Theo dried his eyes and took several deep breaths. He tried to force his mind to think like he normally thought, before he’d entered that room, but something had changed. The words the man had spoken had been some deep truth about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and that truth had done something inside him.
Theo crossed the room and stood in the doorway. He felt no urge to run out to the van like the others. Instead, he sensed a deep yearning in his heart to understand what he’d heard.
“Who was he?” Theo asked quietly.
Mr. Nelson straightened up and seemed to comprehend from Theo’s words that the man was no longer alive.
“Just a man who used to attend our church.” Mr. Nelson gestured to the rest of the youths against the wall. “Go ahead, guys. Back to the van. We’re done here tonight.”
“He wasn’t just a man, though, was he?”
Mr. Nelson smiled sadly, enough to make Theo’s heart ache. He’d never cared like this before, not for anything.
“No, he wasn’t just a man. He was a saint. And an evangelist who led hundreds to Christ in his lifetime, including me. His wife died last year, so your dad and I were about the only ones who still visited him regularly. He asked me to bring all of you here to see him. He knew he would graduate tonight.”
“He graduated.” Theo wiped at a tear and laughed at himself. “This wasn’t what I thought would happen tonight. I had other things on my mind.”
“I know. Come on. Let’s go talk to the orderlies and let them know he passed.”
“Okay. But I have some questions. He said stuff I don’t understand.”
“Things about the resurrection. And life. And courage. And death. I’ve heard all the stories, Mr. Nelson, but now I need to understand. For real.”
“Then we’ll talk, Theo—for real.”
Click this link to read a past Easter Short Story called, “Citizenship Resurrected.” Read another challenging short story related to Easter called, “Resurrection Sunday Remembrance.” Find many other Christian Short Stories here.
COMING UP: Join us next time for David Telbat’s Author Reflection, “Is God Worth all the Drama?“