I think it all started with reading Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych, followed by a very close friend’s potentially serious cancer diagnosis. Then, there was word of a high school acquaintance being shot to death in his home under mysterious circumstances. The funeral was yesterday.
Next, I visited my elderly parents, and the sight of their ever-weakening and inexplicably shrinking bodies made me sad. Last night, I watched a highly anticipated Dateline story about two students of Taylor University (a nearby Indiana Christian college) whose identities were accidentally switched at the scene of a horrendous accident two years ago, and how the mistake was not revealed until 5 weeks later, leaving one family elated and one family devastated. Finally, we’re right at the three-year anniversary of an event that made part of my heart die away forever, the death of Terri Schiavo.
Yes, I've been thinking about death a lot this week.
Actually, I think about my own death at some point every day, not in a morbid way, but just in an “Are you ready? Is there unfinished business? How do you want to be remembered?” way. That is constructive, to a point.
What is not constructive is allowing myself to be tortured by the fear of losing my children and husband. As a believer, I have to draw the line of rumination there. I cannot give in to hand-wringing, although I’m prone to.
Henri Nouwen once spoke to the unique relationship of a trapeze team. When the flyer lets go of his bar and hangs in mid-air for a split second, there is no security. He cannot see his catcher nor manipulate the catcher’s speed or method of catching. But at the right moment, his savior arrives and takes him to their base.
Most of us believe death will be like that frightening moment of suspension. But 2 Corinthians 5:8 tells us, “We should be cheerful, because we would rather leave these bodies and be at home with the Lord.”
In other words, we will not be left hanging for one moment because to let go here makes us present there.
Sometimes when I sit down to write, I face the blank screen and feel uncertain and anxious—the term is “writer’s block.” After this sad, question-filled week, I’m comforted by the thought that although life is uncertain, it is not unwritten. That is to say, God is the author of life, and he has never suffered writer’s block. He is not uneasy about the future at all.
That’s why Christians shouldn’t despair. Death is simply another part of each of our stories.
Paul says, “When you sow a seed, it must die in the ground before it can live and grow. And when you sow it, it does not have the same body it will have later. What you sow is only a bare seed, maybe wheat or something else. But God gives it a body that he has planned for it” (Corinthians 15:35-38).
The key word phrase is “that he has planned for it.” We who trust in Christ for forgiveness of our sins can know that as the story of our life unfolds, we are in his thoughts, never out of sight or mind, and that we are always safe in the strong grip of our loving savior and "catcher."
Q ~ When was the last time you felt suspended in air like the trapeze flyer?
Q ~ Think about a time you felt the sure grip of the "catcher" in your life.