May 21, 2001 is the day Joshua Mark Hicks “went home.” The quotations marks have significant meaning because I don’t think Joshua went home. Home is with me; home is in this creation. God created this world as our home and death is an alien invader that disrupts the shalom of this world. But I do acknowledge “home” in the sense that home is authentically home with God–dwelling with God in his dwelling place; sharing in the perichoresis of the divine fellowship as face-to-face communion. So, Joshua “went home.” But he is not fully at home as yet since God’s intent has not yet been fully wrought–home is the new heaven and new earth where all the saints share the fellowship of the Triune God and with each other. And I yearn for that home.
Especially today, May 21. Four years ago I watched my son breathe his last breath on my living room floor as he laid there on his pallet. It had been a long ordeal–over ten years of living with his terminal genetic condition. The last six years he was unable to voice whatever his mind may have been thinking. It is painful to hold your son, express your love and not be able to hear him reciprocate that love except by–and it was wonderful to hear–his cooing and smiling.
The last six years he was also in a wheelchair of some kind and basically confined to that chair or bed for the last two years. He withered away in front of our eyes; sixteen years old and 40 pounds when he died.
So, today is a reminder, a remembering and a groaning for the future. My Joshua–the one whom we thought would lead God’s people–is “home”. He now experiences the meaning of his name as I wait to experience the fullness of that salvation and be at “home” with him.
I have not written much about the death of my son, though I have often spoken of it in churches across the world. But that experience, along with the death of my father and first wife, Sheila, has shaped my theology in significant ways. I breathe eschatology because of those experiences, I suppose.
Indeed, Joshua’s death (and subsequent tragic events following his death) shaped the writing of Come to the Table. I wish I had been more explicit about it in the book, and if I were to rewrite it now, I would stress the eschatological dimension much more. The paper I am presently writing, which will be published in a book by IVP, will supplement the book in this key dimension.
You see, every Sunday–and as often as I partake–I experience the table as eschatological presence. The worship is “heaven on earth” (as our Orthodox friends like to say), and the table is a table in the presence of the heavenly realities. Around the table, the Lord Jesus serves me and, most significantly, my son. There–as the eschaton breaks into the present–I experience the joy of being “at home” with my son…and with Dad, and Sheila, and Barry, and…. The table is truly a table of joy.
Tommorrow, the table (surrounded by friends and family) will transform even May 21 into a joy as I experience “home” with my son.
Thanks for listening. Shalom.