Oh, yay. I see that assisted suicide is back in the news. Since the rationale for suicide stems from the near-certainty of a protracted, painful death or end-of-life dementia in certain cases, I feel qualified to comment. At 61, I still vividly recall my mother’s death from colon cancer when I was 23. She was only 53. What I learned from that could fill a book, but for your sake, I’ll be brief.
“It is a wonder that Christ’s glory is not defiled, running through such an unclean and impure channel [as the writer]; but I see Christ will be Christ, in the dreg and refuse of men: his art, his shining wisdom, his beauty speaketh loudest in blackness, weakness, deadness, yea, in nothing.
“I see, nothing, no money, no worth, no good, no life, no deserving, is the ground that Omnipotency delighteth to draw glory out of.”
Samuel Rutherford in a letter to James Hamilton, Sept. 7, 1637
Visualize this: you have a dead body in the basement. Yeah, it’s been there for quite a while, so it’s rotting and maggot-filled, only, it won’t stay dead. It keeps trying to come up the stairs into the rest of the house. But since it’s in advanced decomposition, only a foot or an arm, or sometimes the head, will make it up the stairs. They slither through all the rooms, leaving a slime trail of putrescine and bits of tissue on the floor and furniture. Cleaning up after them is a nightmare: even after scrubbing with bleach, the odor lingers for days.
You keep corralling the pieces and throwing them back down into the basement. You’ve tried everything to keep them down there—burying them; locking the basement door; nailing it shut and stuffing rags in the cracks, but time and again you turn around, and there’s a lower leg with foot partially attached dragging itself across your kitchen to the refrigerator. This corpse is making your house pretty uncomfortable. And it won't leave.
When you know the back story, this is so encouraging: "Nothing hath given my faith a harder back-set, till it crack again, than my closed mouth. But let me be miserable myself alone, God keep my dear brethren from it." (May 1, 1637)
What Samuel Rutherford cared about more than anything else was teaching and tending his little congregation at Anwoth. But in the political upheaval roiling Scotland, he was among the ministers deemed "unorthodox," so was exiled and imprisoned at Aberdeen, prohibited from preaching. All he could do was write and receive letters.
When I was faced with divorce ten years ago, God sent Samuel Rutherford to help me through it by means of his Letters, written in the mid-17th century. I kid you not: every night when I opened that book, every letter seemed meant for me, whether he was counseling someone in trouble, complaining about his own inadequacy, or (as he did most often) marveling about the incomparable merits of Jesus Christ. Those letters kept me level throughout the ordeal, and have helped me so much in the intervening years that the original little book is in tatters. Good thing the collection is online now.
Anyway, that is why you will find Rutherford quotations throughout my books. And yes, I call him "Sammy"--not because he's anything like Sammy, but because he's been such a good friend to me.
It is an established scientific fact [insert citation here] that the older we get, the faster time passes. So have pity on us old folks when we look at the calendar and screech, “It’s HOW MANY days till Christmas??” And bear with the even older folks who poke us in the ribs about a rather more pressing deadline:
“I exhort and beseech you in Christ’s name, faint not, weary not. There is a great necessity of heaven—you must needs have it: all other things, as houses, lands, children, husbands, friends, country, credit, health, wealth, honour, may be done without; but heaven is your one thing needful, the good part which cannot [must not] be taken from you. Think it not easy, for the ascent to eternal glory is steep; many are lying dead by the way, that are slain by security.”
When Samuel Rutherford wrote this anxious reminder to the Lady Cardoness on February 20, 1637, she had all the favorable attributes he mentions. How long she enjoyed them, we don’t know, but it’s certain that the only treasures she possesses 377 years later are those she committed to heaven.
My first book, Chataine's Guardian, was published in 1984: the beginning of one wild ride.