“Into your hands I commend my spirit. It is you who will redeem me, Lord” (Psalm 31:6). We know these words because they are the last words that Jesus speaks from the cross. His mission was completed. He had done his Father’s will to the full. He had borne in his body on that cross, the full weight of human sin from Adam to the Last Day. He had given his all, and he commended his spirit back to the Father.
From the first time I ever heard these words as child, I have been struck with wonder by them. Even then I recognized an intimacy in them that was beyond my ability to speak of it. Then and now, I am in awe of the love that those words express. Now, at the end of my sixth decade on earth, these words have become my own by the grace of God. As I look back over the years, I can clearly see the hand of God in so much of my life. So many gifts, so many graces in times of need. My heart burns with gratitude for the unconditional love God has shown me in my life.
An old Navy friend of mine with a poetic sense of the language once said to me, “I have a lot more blue water behind me now than in front of me.” And so it is. There are many more years behind than before me now and, at this time of life, one begins to contemplate life with a growing awareness of its finite limits. For a follower of Jesus there is much more than this too. Looking back over my life, there were times when, in the arrogance and invincibility of youth, I took paths far off the narrow road and suffered the consequences in a multitude of ways. In my middle years, I drew closer to God, but was, more often than not, distracted by personal desires, the needs of family, and so many of the duties and responsibilities that go hand in hand with our working years. But I can also see that God was always there, always with me. His friendship and care for me was ever faithful. His patience with my willfulness at times, his challenges to me in so many ways, and his generous, loving forgiveness in every case, has captured me and I am drawn ever deeper into a personal relationship with him every day. Though, in truth, I remain a flawed character, my will has turned more and more toward Jesus, my ever-enduring friend and savior. And this has made all the difference.
Each night now, after my wife and I share evening prayer together, I go to bed and read for a few minutes until my eyes begin to fade and sleep starts to come upon me. It has become my habit then to turn out the light, and as I put my head on the pillow, I pray these words: “Father, as I roll over and close my eyes to go to sleep, it is into your hands that I commend my spirit. If I should die in my sleep, I pray that you will forgive me of my sins and welcome me into your heavenly kingdom. If it is your will that I should rise in the morning to live another day, I pray that you will give me the graces I need to walk in your ways throughout my day. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.” And each day that I rise, I give him thanks and try to follow his narrow path. I have come to know the truth that it is through him alone that I am saved. And there is great comfort in this knowledge.
Lord, It is our heart’s deepest desire to fall into the peace and protection of your arms, now and at the hour of our death. To finally see you in the face, to feel your profound embrace, is our greatest hope. And so we pray in humble fellowship with Jesus, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. It is you who will redeem me, Lord.” Amen!
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