The fide, vita and legatum of my godfather
My 66-year-old godfather died on New Year’s Day 2016, after fighting leukemia for weeks. Yet his fide, vita and legatum (faith, life and legacy) made his passing akin to stepping “into the real Narnia through the Door,” to quote my godfather’s favorite author, C.S. Lewis, in “The Last Battle.” Over the last year, I believe he has just gone “further up and further in,” as Lewis writes elatedly.
Rev. Dr. Norm Lund was committed to faith, truth and compassion. He shared these first with his beloved wife, Judy, and three daughters, then with people all around him. He also cherished liberty, laughter, liturgy, lyrics, literature, Luther and Latin. He served variously as a teacher, pastor and theologian. What follows are my reflections on a man I respected about as much as anybody.
Norm and Judy adopted my two brothers and me as their godsons. For Norm, that meant almost daily prayer for us for about 30 years. The loss of this spiritual support and kindness feels quite tangible, as if my back has been exposed in battle.
Yet since Norm faded from this earth, I have pondered whether his prayers faded with him. Or is it possible that when God’s children die, he lets their prayers keep ringing in his throne room? In the Old Testament, 2 Samuel 22 states, “He heard my voice from his temple, and my cry entered his ears.” Moreover, if prayer from a yet-sinning Christ-follower “avails much” (James 5), might it carry more weight from a no-longer-sinning saint in heaven? In short, if God answers prayers with a “yes,” “no” or “wait,” maybe sometimes he changes a “wait” to a “yes” after we meet him in glory.
God reacts to his children dying in at least two ways. John 11 has the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” This was the Lord’s response to the death of his friend Lazarus — although he was about to resurrect Lazarus in a very public miracle. God knows grief better than anybody, having sacrificed his own son that others might live. (John 3). God’s tears fall next to his people’s when it comes to death.
God also sees Christians perishing like this: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116). This is both strange and wonderful. Is God himself almost impatient for his own creation, the image of God, to enter his heavenly courts? This could resemble a father’s euphoria in personally giving a special gift to his child.
Here are some highlights from my observations of how Norm lived his life:
Spending lots of time with God early every morning.Reading and/or singing with his daughters each night (and me, when I was there).Disciplining his kids in love, and staying involved until restoration was achieved.Neither fearing alcohol nor granting it any power over him.Speaking the truth in love — talking with you, not at you.Reciting Scripture regularly (memorizing 24 Psalms and many other passages).Having fun and laughing heartily, without wasting time or compromising values.Loving history, classical literature, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.Relaxing and recreating — indoors and outdoors.Encouraging me in my faith and writing.Identifying Christ-like figures or themes in quality movies.Serving his bride.Respecting his in-laws, caring for his siblings and honoring his parents.Speaking Jesus’ name frequently, reverently, and without stammering.Co-leading all of his godsons’ weddings.Promoting moral fortitude in America, but putting people before politics and creed before country.Glorying in how awesome heaven must be, like imagining climbing mountains five times higher than Mt. Everest, akin to “Aslan’s real world” in “The Last Battle.”
Norm was not always good or right. He was a sinner who deserved hellfire — like me. But his joy is greatest who is most certain of his need for salvation and has found Jesus Christ.
Norm wanted to show Jesus to everybody he could, as often as he could, starting with his family. But even more, he longed not to “see in a mirror, dimly,” but to see Jesus “face to face” and to “know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13). In fact, he would have despised heaven itself unless he knew he would be there with his God forever. Now he is.