Our son Jeff Mathews passed into eternity on November 15, 2011. Jeff had a massive heart attack that took his physical life. As parents who are 75 and 73 years old, it was difficult to see our son who was 51-years old pass way before us. This recent experience around the Thanksgiving time caused us to reflect on the value of life in a special, yet thankful way. We found that as we started thanking God for Jeff's 51 years on earth, we starting seeing the 'paradox' of his life that allowed us to see why Jeff may have been chosen by God to enter heaven before his six brothers and sisters, as well as his parents. One of our children reminded us that 1Peter 2:9 states that God's people are peculiar people and that Jeff's life and death should be viewed as both a physical and Spiritual 'Paradox.'
A 'paradox' is described as a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true. After thinking about Jeff's life we concurred that Jeff's life, like many people was a paradox by the world's standard. In many ways Jeff was like most people, in that he was far easier to examine via his outward appearance, versus his inward value. The paradox of Jeff's life was that he could easily be viewed by most people as the least likely person to be escorted into heaven for a greater purpose; yet after self examination or investigation the thought of him beating his siblings and us to heaven makes perfect sense ... it was truly a paradox.
Jeff was born with an irregular heart beat that was diagnosed when Jeff was about 18-years old. It was at that time that Doctors discovered old scars upon his heart from a very young age, most probably at birth. The doctors called it an irregular heart, but we chose to see it as 'above-average' or supernaturally abnormal. I guess if doctors can make up names for almost anything abnormal, it is OK for us to make up a few names that fit the paradox of a man's life from a spiritual perspective; as we believe that Jeff always had a very soft physical, spiritual, and relational heart that was not 'regular.' Through Jeff's 51-years on earth he would give much evidence of this very kind and gentle heart. However, on the exterior Jeff was a relatively large man with broad shoulders, bristly beard, and an outward demeanor that did not allow people to see his 'irregular' (above average) heart. Jeff was truly a gentle giant when contrasting his inward nature against his exterior body!
Jeff's physical life was a paradox which extended into his spiritual life. If Jeff was in a line-up to be identified as a nice church going kid, a choir member, or a candidate for the church board he would have been easily over-looked. As we reflected upon Jeff's life and attributes, God gave us a thought which granted us to be greatly comforted. That thought was ... if any of your children were in a line-up to see who most resembled John the Baptist or Elijah the prophet, who would be selected? Within a second we immediately identified Jeff. This thought along with the evidence of His soft (supernaturally abnormal) heart were the very images we needed in order for us to see the full and true reflection of Jeff. We were able to rejoice and view Jeff in God's presence along with the likes of John the Baptist and Elijah, who also would have been overlooked to be part of the church choir, youth pastor, board member, or ministerial candidate. In this moment of reflection given to us by God we could see that 1Peter 2:9 illuminated the paradox of Jeff's life ... 'You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.' On November 15, 2011 Jeffrey Allen Mathews was called into God's marvelous light as he entered God's presence and transformed the earthy paradox that he lived.
We are encouraged to compare Jeff to the likes of other heavenly people who also would never had been selected among the prim-and-proper people of this world, but went on before us as chosen vessels to be with the Lord in heaven. In fact, Elijah was selected and escorted to heaven without a physical death, as God quickly whisked him into heaven through a whirlwind via a fiery chariot (2Kings 2:1-11). We are starting to see the paradox of life and death, the life of a man on earth, and the paradox of God's word that states that 'The last will be first, and the first shall be last.' We love this underdog approach that God has chosen for so many of the Biblical stories such as Abraham, Joseph, Sarah, Rahab, Moses, Ruth, Daniel, Naomi, Elijah, Mary, Samson, Gideon, John the Baptist, the Nation of Israel, Peter and the Sons of Thunder (James and John). Hebrews 11:38 describes the paradox of these people's life through the contrast of their life on earth against the life they gained in heaven by stating "The world was not worthy of them, as they wandered through caves, wildernesses, deserts, and dens and caves on this earth." This visual image of our son Jeff has brought our family much comfort, and we know that it will bring many parents comfort as they consider the paradox of their own children's life, as many other people like Jeff may have been inspected by the world by their outward nature, but realize that it is God that examines the heart and inwardness of a person as he brings closure to the paradox of eternal life.
We believe that our reflection of our son and the paradoxical aspects of everyone's life on earth will encourage many parents, spouses, children, siblings and friends to gain a better view of the paradoxical nature of their own loved ones. More importantly, we hope that the proper reflection of your own lost family members allow you to overlook any false perceptions, judgments, or ideologies that followed the 'peculiar' aspects of their life. The fact is, God loves peculiar people and desires to use them to show forth His marvelous light! The truth is we are all frail, needy, and wanting people who struggle far too long with the misperceptions of this life and how we fit-into a perceived 'normal' manner of living. We all deserve the hope, faith and charity that comes from the recognition that God validates the paradox of this life on earth combined with our life in heaven. It will be upon God's examination that the true value of our inward heart is finally seen. We were all created in God's image and return to God's image upon our salvation and entrance into heaven. The peculiar nature of each of use begins to vanish and be wiped away as God's marvelous light shines upon us. We are extremely thankful that God gave us this reflection of our son's life.