Taking things for granted.
I’ve become convinced of the fact that we don’t actually know what it is that we believe until it’s ripped away from us. It’s like a child with a toy. They don’t want it until it’s taken away…that’s when you know that the attachment is real. We’re taught from such an early age that we don’t have to value the things in our present like we know we should because we’re told that they’ll be there tomorrow. The child doesn’t want to play with his toy now, because he’ll have that opportunity on a rainy day. And we…we spend so much time putting other priorities over people in our lives because we likewise assume they’ll be there tomorrow. Maybe it’s a consequence of living in such a modernized society. No major wars or plagues or famines. We don’t know death enough to let it become a possibility for our next day. We are numb to the death and too comfortable with the assumption of life.
But things have changed for me. I am dying. I don’t mean just emotionally. Yes, that’s absolutely true, but that’s not what I’m really talking about. What I mean is that death has become not just a possibility for me but a guarantee. When? I don’t know. Perhaps tomorrow, or five years from now, or twenty years from now, or fifty. I don’t know. And, for the record, I have no thoughts of suicide (just want to clear that up, since I am sure some have wondered). What do I mean? I mean that I feel like a cancer patient, knowing that my life is now currently spent towards medicating the inevitable. I mean that the day that B died, my own sense of immortality and naivety of endings passed on with her. I realized, for the first time, that I have been dying my entire life. Endings are real. Finalities are real. There is nothing that does not have a close to its chapter. And for the first time in my life, I can say that I do not fear death. When it finds me, when it sinks its teeth into me, I will be ready. How much better is it to look into the face of your enemy as it destroys you? Then, at least, it will begin to fear you.
So, the question now is this: how will I go about dying? It’s a choice that I have. I can either die on my terms or in fear, trying to escape the lion that will no doubt sink his fangs into me or I can choose to set the limits. Bonhoeffer once famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Isn’t it about time that we Christians started to realize this? Do we accept our death or do we fear it? Do we stare at it in the face or do we shrink from it? Death is the enemy, yes. I have become more certain of that with every passing day. It is the one thing which I have grown to hate. But it is because of my hate and because I am called into that death that I have come to smile at it, knowing that death is only one inevitable stop on the way to life.
Oh death, where is your victory? Where is your sting? (1 Cor 15.55) I do not fear you. You have shown me the lies that our naivety imposes on our minds. Through your emptiness and destruction, you have shown me that today must be lived as today and that love must dictate our daily responsibilities and relationships. I will not go on in selfishness or doubt or questioning or fearing. You have shown me the lies that those truly are. What I will go on doing is living in the opposites of those lies. You will find me and consume me, perhaps tomorrow or many years from now. But know this: You will gain no satisfaction in my ending. I have given my death to God, just as B. did… just as Jesus did.