Christopher Columbus was no saint. Most people who took any form of American History class know that, including Columbus. He admitted in his diary on several occasions that he was a great sinner. But, like most of us, there was more to him than just his mistakes.
Mark Patterson, in his book, “Wild Goose Chase” points out that Columbus genuinely felt like he was on a divine mission from God. He felt the Lord’s hand guiding him, when other people were too busy mocking the idea of his travels, Columbus believed that God was behind him.
And here’s why that’s cool:
Back in the day of Columbus, maps were drawn of the known world from England to India. And on the margins of the maps the Cartographer would just put two words: Terra Incognita or Unknown Land. The general idea back then was that in those unchartered territories there could be dragons or Cannibals, or whatever other horrible things you could imagine.
If something was unknown then it must be dangerous.
For the past few weeks I’ve been preaching at RHCC about risk. And if there has ever been a series that’s blessed me more than the people I was preaching to, it’s this one. Our little family is in such an uncertain time for our lives. There are so many variables for us right now. What if we don’t sell our house? What if we don’t make any new friends? What if we find out that we are allergic to living in West Texas?
The unknown is always scarier isn’t it?
So this last Saturday night after church, a guy came up to talk to me who I’ll call Bill. Bill and I have known each other for a few months now. And Bill is dying of cancer. He’s had it for about 8 years and 10 surgeries now. And this week he is scheduled to have another major procedure. But here’s where the story picks up. He’s been having dreams lately. Dreams, he believes, that are from God. Now I assumed when he told me about these dreams from the Lord, they would be about pleasant things like rainbows and unicorns, but they weren’t.
Bill has been dreaming of the Lord telling him that he is going to die.
The voice tells him that he won’t make it through this next surgery.
I know that sounds horrible. It was shocking to me too. But Bill insists that these dreams aren’t nightmares, in fact, they are actually quite comforting. Because that’s not all the voice says. Bill believes God is telling him this so that he can get his affairs in order, but more than that, so that he can know what’s waiting for Him after his body gives out. In these dreams, God has been letting Bill know that He is good and perfectly capable of meeting him on the other side of this thing we call life.
And he believes it.
I’ve never had a conversation like this before. Most of the time when I talk to people who are running out of time, there is a desperation to the conversation. But this was different. Bill knows his body is shutting down. His internal organs are failing one at a time. But he also knows that death won’t be the end of him. Because God told him so.
Now to be honest, I’m not sure what I think about all this. On many levels I want those dreams to not be from the LORD. I’d love for my friend to live many more years. And if this week comes and goes without any problems, I’ll rejoice that Bill lives to see another day. After all, I don’t think death is God’s plan for anybody. That’s why it always feel unnatural, because we weren’t created to die.
But what if this is God? Wouldn’t it be just like Him to give my brother one last gift? To let him know that he isn’t passing into some great unknown by himself, and that the Living God will be with him?
You know what’s ironic about that voyage that Columbus set out on? Not one of the men on that ship had ever sailed over 300 miles before. They were about to charter a new course for history. They were going to discover the other side of the world, but geographically speaking, they had previously barely even left their backyard. They sailed toward the Great Unknown, the Terra Incognita, only to find that they weren’t doing it alone.
And if they wouldn’t have made this risk we would never have discovered that a person can go East by sailing West.
In the words of Andre Gida, “People cannot discover new lands until they have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
Which is good news for me. And Bill.