September 10, 2021, was a day a father received’t overlook. It wasn’t the day our eldest realized to stroll. It wasn’t his first day of faculty (that really got here just a few days later). It wasn’t the day he realized to journey a motorbike (“Dad, let go! Let go! I can do it!”). No, Friday, September 10, 2021, was the primary time my son noticed dying.
And never simply any dying. This was “Grama Sally,” my spouse’s grandmother. Throughout journeys to Los Angeles, our son had met Grama Sally, hugged her, talked together with her, took footage together with her. He knew her. And but there she was, mendacity surprisingly nonetheless — too nonetheless to be asleep — in a big, stunning, picket field, surrounded by flowers, footage, and plenty of tears. I keep in mind his eyes — tiny vats swirling with confusion, curiosity, and concern. Wanting round, he knew he ought to be unhappy, however he additionally didn’t perceive sufficient to know why, which made the entire scene extra unsettling. Whether or not you’re a father or a five-year-old, nothing can absolutely put together you for moments like these.
I might write a dozen articles about that day, however for now, isn’t it attention-grabbing that my son might dwell 5 complete years and never be confronted with dying?
I began noticing how surprisingly absent dying appears from on a regular basis life when Ray Ortlund quoted a line in regards to the Victorian period (roughly 1820 to 1914), when individuals talked extra freely about dying, however nearly by no means about intercourse. And now, the other is true. The road despatched me trying to find days when dying was a extra seen member of society.
Grief in American society at this time is comparatively discrete. We discuss “respecting the household’s privateness.” When somebody dies, a bunch of family members placed on some nicer garments, attend a short viewing, then a brief service, and at last a burial, typically with a reception afterward. All of this may happen in solely half a day.
Within the 1800s in Britain, nonetheless, individuals grieved very otherwise — and way more publicly. Widows, specifically, typically wore elaborate robes lengthy after the funeral (generally for a yr and even two). A complete style business rose round dying. This meant that, on any given day, it wasn’t unusual to see somebody grieving for all to see. 5-year-olds couldn’t keep away from the darkish clouds strolling out and in of crowds. Their kindergartners had been compelled to ask questions our youngsters not often suppose to ask.
Given how little time and a spotlight (and material) we now give to dying, ought to it shock us that it blindsides us prefer it does? As a society tries to suppress and conceal the fact of dying, it inevitably turns into much less ready for it. I, for one, wish to be prepared when it comes for me — and it’ll come for me, and also you, and everybody , except Jesus returns first. As I assist elevate three younger lives, one in every of my nice burdens is to arrange them to die effectively.
May Dying Be Higher?
When my very own dying attracts close to, I wish to face it just like the apostle Paul. I wish to be as ready for dying as he was, in order that I can dwell as absolutely as he did earlier than he died. We might go to a number of passages, however Philippians 1 holds up the grave as boldly and fantastically as another.
As he writes, he sits in a Roman jail, with no assurances that he’ll ever sit wherever else once more. His buddies had been afraid. After many scares earlier than, this actually may very well be it. “It’s my keen expectation and hope that I can’t be in any respect ashamed, however that with full braveness now as all the time Christ will likely be honored in my physique, whether or not by life or by dying” (Philippians 1:20). Whereas others would have been consumed by fear, regretting all that might be misplaced and left undone, Paul embraced the prospect of the top, even a seemingly untimely finish.
A number of verses later, he expresses confidence that God will ship him from jail (verse 25), however that confidence doesn’t come from his circumstances. Every part he might see issued a distinct forecast. He knew he may die. And that haunting thought didn’t disturb him.
To me to dwell is Christ, and to die is achieve. (Philippians 1:21)
If you learn him, dying doesn’t look like dying in any respect. Hope has someway drained dying of its shadows, of its bleakness. For Paul, dying is just like the demonized man in Mark 5, who broke by means of chains, minimize himself ruthlessly, and cursed the sky for years — till he met Jesus. Then, individuals discovered him “sitting there, clothed and in his proper thoughts” (Mark 5:15). Christ does that to dying for all who dwell in him.
When he surveys what life and dying provide him, Paul doesn’t merely tolerate and obtain the latter; he prefers it. “Acquire.” “Higher.” “Reward.” He doesn’t despise his life in Christ on earth — “If I’m to dwell within the flesh, which means fruitful labor for me” (verse 22). However he knew sufficient to gladly commerce all he had now for what comes subsequent.
Higher Life by Far
Paul, like the remainder of humanity, was born enslaved to the concern of dying (Hebrews 2:15). Consciously or unconsciously, we develop up and dwell beneath the oppressive, terrifying actuality that we are going to die. And that concern makes individuals do all method of sinful and irrational issues. Paul wasn’t proof against the dread that terrorizes hundreds of thousands. So what modified his perspective on dying? What lens might he probably put over the grave to see achieve?
“Dying is just higher than life if dying means getting nearer to Jesus.”
He tells us simply two verses later: “My need is to depart and be with Christ, for that is much better” (Philippians 1:23). Dying is just higher than life if dying means dwelling nearer to Jesus. And it does for these, like Paul, who belief and observe him. As we step by means of the grave, “we will see him as he’s” (1 John 3:2). And he will likely be so beautiful, so arresting, so satisfying, that seeing him will change us. “What we will likely be has not but appeared; however we all know that when he seems we will be like him, as a result of we will see him as he’s” (1 John 3:2). Dying will introduce us to a glory that won’t solely sweep us off our ft, however swallow and remodel us.
Someday, I’ll get up in a better-by-far world, surrounded by better-by-far sights and tastes and alternatives, and I’ll expertise all of it as a better-by-far me. A greater world, as a result of Christ’s reign will likely be seen and felt in each inch and breath. Higher adventures, as a result of we’ll eat and work and journey and chortle and swim and reign with the one who made all of it. A greater me, as a result of I’ll have by no means been extra like him. That’s how dying loses its sting. That’s how the prospect of shedding all can develop to really feel like achieve.
Residing to Die
This attitude doesn’t merely put together us to die effectively, although. It additionally prepares us to dwell effectively till we die. And satirically, whereas dying effectively will imply dwelling extra absolutely than ever, dwelling effectively will imply repeatedly dying to ourselves. Paul can say, “I die day by day!” (1 Corinthians 15:31). What does he imply?
He tells us in Philippians 1. “If I’m to dwell within the flesh,” verse 22, “which means fruitful labor for me.” And what would that fruitful labor be?
I’ll stay and proceed with you all, on your progress and pleasure within the religion, in order that in me you could have ample trigger to glory in Christ Jesus, due to my coming to you once more. (Philippians 1:25–26)
“Whereas dying effectively will imply dwelling extra absolutely than ever, dwelling effectively will imply repeatedly dying to self.”
As a result of he was ready to die, Paul was freed to dwell, not for himself, however for others’ pleasure in God. In different phrases, he was freed to spend his life making ready individuals to die effectively, giving them motive after motive to dwell for Christ and lengthy for heaven. He spent the little time he had on earth (even in jail!) on the lookout for artistic and expensive methods to win and mature souls for the subsequent world. He knew that dying effectively on his final day meant dying effectively day by day.
And so if we wish to dwell and die effectively, we die, so long as now we have breath, in order that others may lastly and absolutely dwell in Christ.