ABOUT THAT DEATH THING….
Nobody wants to die. I certainly don’t. Even highly religious and spiritual people, of whom I am one, don’t relish the unknowns of death. Don’t believe for a second those people who claim to have no fear of death because of their hope for eternal life in Heaven. Let’s be honest; their hope for eternal life and mine, while it is real, does not erase the unease over death. There are a few people who may sincerely desire death, but only because their current life is miserable beyond their willingness to continue coping. On rare occasions, in the horrors of war for instance, the pursuit of the cause may override the sense of self preservation; but it is not the desire to die that motivates the call to heroism. God created us to love this life, the only life we know, and not to desire its cessation. God’s creation is designed to sustain life, not end it. Long life on Earth was a promised blessing from God to those who honored him during their time here. God’s plan was for those created in his image to live forever. Jesus certainly did not cheerfully anticipate his own death. Death was introduced into humanity only later, sometime after creation, and functions like a fuse in an electrical circuit, cutting off evil and preventing it from entering eternity. The Bible nowhere makes death out to be a good thing; so let’s not pretend we are unperturbed at the thought of our death.
My hope for a conscious, never-ending existence on what the Bible describes as a reconciled, restored, and renewed creation (think of what it was like back in the beginning before entropy and corruption soured things) is something I think about virtually every day. However, as much as I look forward to the perfection of eternity, I still love this planet and I love this life. Yes, I know that in 1 John 2 the apostle tells us not to love the world; but he was referring to the evil systems that govern human behavior, not the physical world Jesus created and himself declared to be good. I love hanging out with friends. I love kayaking up in Lake Superior or the Sea of Cortez. I love the sharp hiss and the slightly metallic taste of air coming out of my SCUBA regulator 100 feet under the surface of the Caribbean. I love hiking in tall mountains and camping alongside a beautiful lake or dancing stream. I love Iowa sweet corn still on the cob smothered in dripping butter, and I love chocolate peppermint pie. I love sitting with my friends around a campfire deep in the woods, a gently falling snow accumulating on the brim of my cowboy hat while we drink hot chocolate and discuss deep and important issues of life. I love riding horses in a desert canyon at dawn, and I love beach camping without a tent in Baja, Mexico where the stars at night shine like Las Vegas on steroids. I love spending the day at the beach with my family. I love snuggling with my wife early in the morning as the smell of brewing coffee wafts from the kitchen into the bedroom. I love the pre-dawn hours of the morning, which I invest in reading my Bible, writing stories like this one, and sipping hot, fresh coffee from an insulated sipper mug as the sun slowly rises. I really love this life, and honestly, I don’t want it to end. It is too good to want to give it up, even though my educated mind understands there is something better on the way. Longing for the perfect future does not erase my present love for what I now possess.
I don’t fear being dead, because as a follower of Jesus, I never will be, but I do have my concerns about the transition from one way of living to the next; and I don’t think the transition is generally an enjoyable experience. The act of dying is associated with sin and judgment, and our actual physical bodies have been judged as undeserving of eternity in their current form. Death in the Bible is always presented as something bad, never as something pleasant. Sure, I can parrot the verses about being absent from the body is to be present with the Lord and about my body being transformed in the twinkling of an eye, and about the certainty of there being no judgment for those who are in Christ, but those things haven’t happened to me yet, so I don’t know what the transition will be like. If dying were a pleasant experience, I don’t think the Bible would refer to it as our last enemy, and I don’t think Jesus would have wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.
I know that as the rest of my eternity continues to unfold it will become increasingly wonderful and that I will share it with people made perfect in a cosmos restored to its original perfect state, a perfection that God himself once described as good and very good. Because God, the judge, has himself paid the cost for all the awful stuff I have done, I look forward to the future and enjoying forever that which once was. What I now enjoy so much and don’t want to lose, will be even better once it is no longer diminished by sin. Do I want to go through the death process? No, not at all. Do I look forward to an exciting eternity? Absolutely. Can’t have one without the other.