Sunday, September 1, 2013

Death, dying and living

Okay before I get going, I'm not going to talk about life after death today. I'm not going to talk about deathbed experiences or any of that stuff.  Maybe another day, but not today.

Instead, I'm going to talk about fear.

Before I got to know Jesus, I used to fear death. In a couple of senses I still do - that is, I fear the separation that it brings from loved ones and the ability of people left behind to cope with that loss (whether my death or the death of someone very close to me).  But as for death itself - thanks to my relationship with God - it holds very little terror for me, aside from that of the unknown. (After all, as a rule you only get to do it once; there are no do-overs, no second chances).

Dying, though, is a different matter. Dying is the process by which a person goes from being alive to being dead. For some, that happens in a moment of time. For others, it's a lengthy and usually quite painful experience. Since I don't know by which means I will make that transition, I do fear dying. I wonder if, should I need to undergo that painful and lengthy process, I will be able to withstand it. 

My human imagination can think of any number of ways I could pass from this world into the next. A car accident, an aneurysm, a heart attack, even a bullet during an attack - these are quick. They are unpleasant to think about - but they don't last long. On the other hand, I have seen enough human suffering to know that a lengthy illness, cancer, diabetes, or even dementia or Alzheimer's can take years of suffering to reach its ultimate end. Facing the idea of those possibilities is something that makes me quail. Never knowing when it will stop. Never knowing how quickly it will get worse. Putting my family through the stress of looking after me. These things can preoccupy me and cause me to experience an uneasiness at best and downright panic at worst. 

I take comfort in knowing that God - who loves me - will never leave or forsake me and will make a way for me to be able to bear whatever comes. 

By far the most pervading fear, though, is something that not many people talk about - largely because (I suspect) they either don't know it exists OR if they do know it exists, they don't want to admit that it does. It's the fear of living.

Yes. I experience it, and many people I have met seem to as well. 

I like the status quo. I like things predictable. Routine is big with me. I usually know on any given day what I will be doing and at what time. The danger with that is that life becomes an endless series of automaton-like moves in which my heart and mind are not engaged. It becomes comfortable. Safe. Uncomplicated. Predictable.

But is it living? 

I don't think so. It's surviving, perhaps even maintaining. However, when I compare that kind of life to the "abundant life" that Jesus promised to those who follow Him, I have to admit that it comes up short. 

Thanks to Suvro Datta for this photo,
Such a life is risky. It's dangerous to old routines, persistent and patriarchal ideas, and long-held beliefs about who really is in charge here. 

It's adventurous. 

And there is a large part of me that is terrified of living there. I may make little forays into that realm on occasion - but it has been many years since I lived consistently in that kingdom of believing big, trusting implicitly for everything, and heroically doing battle with giants (whether emotional, spiritual, financial, or physical obstacles) on a daily basis. 

I fear it. I hesitate. It requires a different kind of energy that is exhilarating and exhausting all in one, because it is not my power into which I must tap, but His. Every day. Every minute. Every second. 

More and more, though, I am convinced that it is the only place, the only lifestyle where I can truly realize (that is, achieve) the potential to which God has called me. 

Like death, like dying, truly LIVING is also not optional. Even if I'm scared. Even if it's hard. I guess that's why God has already provided everything we need. He has given us faith - trust - to live by.

If I don't live - really live - I am dead already. 

So maybe I need to, as the songwriter wrote, "pick up the mighty shield of faith, for the battle must be won; we know that Jesus Christ is risen, so the work's already done!" (Praise the Lord)

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