It May be a Very Very Long Sleep

For more than a decade, Dr. Bruce Thielemann was my pastor. I listened to his sermons on cassette tape almost every week. In one sermon he told this story:

Two summers ago I received a telephone call from my physician, who also happened to be the physician of my most beloved seminary professor. He called to tell me that my old prof, who had been retired for many years (he was in his eighty-sixth year at that time) had been taken to the hospital, and that he would not be coming home from the hospital. I said to the doctor, “Is Prof’s death imminent? Will it be today or tomorrow?” “Oh,” he said, “I doubt it. But it won’t be too long. And he won’t be coming home.”

I had a commitment for that night which I had scheduled almost two years in advance, but I broke that commitment in order to go to the hospital. When I walked into the hospital room, I found my old professor with another of his former students, whom I knew well, sitting beside him. As I came to the door, he looked at me and said, “Thielemann, old chap, you’ve come to help me die.” I said, “No, Prof, I’m sure you can do that by yourself.”

We began to talk and to share, and he decided he would like to confess his sins. He said things like, “I taught you boys too much theology. I should have taught you more about Jesus. I’m taking my final examinations, and I find I wouldn’t even be able to write my name on the paper were it not for my Savior.” And he talked about his love for his wife. As he talked he moved a bit in the bed, and I went over at one point to move him back to his pillows again. I remember I was astonished at how little he weighed. There was so little of the body left, and yet that great spirit was still sparkling.

At last he said, “Boys, I think I’m going to go to sleep now. And I don’t think you should wait, because it may be a very, very long sleep.” As he said that, he reached out and took the nurse’s hand. And I said to him, “Prof, I don’t think you ought to hold that nurse’s hand.” “Why?” “Because if you’re going to go now, I have a feeling you’re going to go like Elijah in a fiery chariot, and I don’t want her to be singed!” He said, “If I’m going to go that way, then I’m going to take her with me!”

He fell asleep holding her hand, and the tides came and took him away. But I was there, and no one will ever be able to take that from me.

Please don’t say anything to me about tomorrow. Tomorrow is the word the Bible does not know. The Holy Spirit’s word is the word today.”

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