Saturday, February 9, 2013

Grave, Where Is Thy Vict'ry?

"For to me to LiVE is Christ, and to DiE is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful LABOR for me. Yet which I shall CHOOSE I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to DEPART and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on YOUR account." (Philippians 1:21-24)
Édouard Manet
The Funeral, 1867

Generally, the world fears death. Religious or not, we do whatever we can to avoid it for as long as possible. We don't like to dwell on it. Three days of bereavement is all we need for preparation and a funeral, and then we return to normal. Then on the other hand, the world views death as a friend when it's convenient enough. If someone is suffering, we long to end that suffering by any means necessary, as though death is preferable to enduring physical pain. That's a harsh reality for those of us in lifelong chronic pain.

And that's just about right, in an imperfect sort of way. As a hospital deaconess, I've prayed for death to come quickly as many times as I've begged God to keep it at bay. Death is cruel and cold, an enemy to be feared. It was brought about by sin. It's as unnatural as we can get, and it hurts. But because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, death is also our doorway to Paradise, to where Jesus is and where pain is no more. It's rest. It's sleep. It’s temporary. 

So why not seek death out as a friend? Because to live is Christ. To live is to suffer, not pointlessly, not endlessly, but as Christ suffered. To live is to bring our brothers to Christ, and to die is to be with Him ourselves. Death will come soon enough, and with it Paradise. But until it does, we are needed here regardless of how much we are able to accomplish and contribute. And so we ought neither to avoid it at all costs, nor should we seek it out. Death is God's domain, not ours. It's another example of the paradox that is our lives lived in the world but not of the world.
And when JESUS had entered, He said to them, "WHY are you making a commotion and WEEPING? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they LAUGHED at Him."

Suggested verse to repeat if it's from a difficult day is from 1 Corinthians 15:55a
PRC buddies, remember to breathe!
"Death is swallowed up -------> 5 count inhale
in victory." -------> 5 count exhale

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