Learning to die is such a curious thing.
On the one hand it is so foreign, even distasteful to us, we are usually afraid to approach the subject. We’ve never been to this place before and suddenly, ready or not, here we are. Fear of the unknown sets in like an ominous fog that swallows up everything it encompasses.
On the other hand, death is indeed a natural part of the circle of life. And we have been to this place before, in fact many times.
We learned to die to our way of living in the womb to the completely unknown and foreign world of breathing air. I wonder what grief a baby faces when they make that most amazing and painful transition from darkness to light, from a world of moistness to dry air, from relative quiet to a cacophony of noise, light, and multiple sensations.
We learned, each of us, to die from being a baby to becoming a young child, from laying on our backs to crawling to walking and running. We died to our pacifier, blankie, and baby bed to more intricate toys and the “big boy (or girl) bed.” From the delight of childhood to the angst of teenage life. We died to high school and graduated to college, and from college we graduated to the completely new life of work and marriage and families. And so we all face the “final” death and graduate to a new life.
Oh for sure, this “real” death, the end of all life as we know it is indeed something quite different from these other life transitions and it does bring on such a frightful array of emotions. At least with previous “graduations,” we had others to assure us it will be okay. We learned from their experiences as they recalled to us what it was like when they were there. Wouldn’t you have loved to visit with Lazarus after Jesus raised him from the dead?! “Tell us Lazarus, what was it like?”
We call dearth “the final event.” But death is not the end. It’s turning the page of one chapter to the beginning of the next and final chapter of the story of life. Like leaving school, it’s our graduation to an exciting new life of unimaginable wonder and joy.* And we do have someone to guide us and teach us to navigate this narrow and seemingly perilous path. Much more than our guide, Jesus delivers us through this amazing gateway to our wondrous new forever-joyful life that awaits us on the other side. We can believe and trust him because his promises are always and faithfully true. And if in my clearly imperfect life I can trust him, so can you trust him to guide you as your Lord and Savior through this life and death to the life ever after.?
Yes, God created us with an immensely strong desire experience life and we naturally grieve losing all we have known, all we’ve seen, heard, touched, tasted, and experienced. Of course we grieve being separated if even temporarily from those we love and cherish. We grieve the loss of physical and emotional comfort, the joy of being strong and being able to choose the many options the menu of life offers.
And yet our truly one great hope is in achieving the prize of our highest dreams, to graduate to heaven, our forever home of peace and joy.
It’s in embracing this choice of learning to die that we truly learn to live well.
*Footnote: I speak here of the transition from death to a wonderful and eternal life of “no more sorrow and no more pain that is freely offered by Jesus to any who follow him. There is, we are clearly told in God’s Word, the BIble, another death that leads to eternal pain and suffering and the lonely and forever separation from God and everyone we ever loved. Jesus says the choice is ours. “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. I Am the resurrection and the life.” While I respect the right of each person to make their own choice, I sincerely invite you to give Jesus a chance to be real in your life.
Choose well, my friend. Choose Jesus.