No, no, no… You don’t need to take out a mental hygiene warrant on me.
But one of the outcomes of being a pastor is that we deal with death and dying a lot. A lot. And as a result, I find myself often looking ahead to the time of my own death, wondering what it will be like and how I want people to memorialize me.
With the loss of a dear friend recently, I’ve been thinking more in-depth about death than I have before.
When I was younger, I couldn’t even imagine death being a reality for me. Like most teens and twenty-somethings, I lived with the sense of invincibility.
And then I began to mature. I began to realize that there are consequences to foolish actions. I stopped driving at break-neck speeds and started thinking a little more about what I was doing.
I am now thirty-five years old. And although I know that I am not invincible, I do not fear death.
Oh sure… there are certain things about dying that scare me senseless. I have an unusual fear of burning to death or drowning. When I read the stories of martyrs who were burned at the stake, I cringe. When I read about the men and women who threw themselves overboard and wrapped their heavy chains around rocks on the sea floor so that they would die free rather than lived enslaved, I get sick to my stomach.
And then there is the grief that I see on faces of loved ones when they have to say goodbye to someone. It frightens me to think that if I should die soon, my parents would be left to grieve.
But overall , I do not fear death.
Last week, when I received the heartbreaking news that my good friend, Vance Leach, had passed away at the age of 45, my heart broke. And I saw some of my worst fears realized: Vance’s parents crushed under the emotional burden having to say farewell to their own son, his friends and relatives struggling to understand why this had to happen.
And still yet, I do not fear death.
Granted, I hope to live to a ripe old age. I want to be old and grey and die peacefully in my sleep–that’s the ideal. I try to live in a manner that isn’t going to hasten the end. And although I have allowed myself to fall out of good physical health, I have taken steps to rectify that situation and restore myself to a healthy lifestyle… because I want to live.
So how is it that someone who loves life and wants to live as long as possible isn’t afraid to die?
Well… I can tell you that it all boils down to my faith. I know that when things on this earth come to an end, that it is not the “End” (with a big “E”). And I know that although I still struggle and am not perfect and sinless, I know that Christ’s grace has been given me and I am “saved”. And I know that even when I can’t have what I want or I don’t understand why things are happening the way they are, I know that God can use all things for God’s glory.
So… brace yourself for a themed week of blogs on death.
Hopefully it won’t be depressing. Hopefully you’ll hear the optimism and hope I have in my heart and you’ll see why I can’t find anything to be afraid of in death itself.