In his book, The Walk, The Life-Changing Journey of Two Friends, song writer Michael Card describes a funeral service for an 8-year old girl killed in an auto accident, during which one of the participants said, ” We were not created for this.” He comments:
“That’s it! We were created for more, for better, for eternal life. At the core of our being something deep, pre-existent, revolts at the thought of life ending, of its being snuffed out by something as trivial and impotent as disease or accident or old age. . . . In John 5:24 Jesus promised that if we hear His Word and believe in Him, we have already crossed over from death to life. . . . . His word wakes those who are the living-dead into new life. That, quite simply, is where death fit into Jesus’ value system.”
I suppose one of the tasks of adapting to the process of our bodies failing us is to decide where death, which influences every moment of our lives, fits into our value system.
On the one hand, Jesus said that he “still had many things to say to you [his disciples], but you cannot bear them” (John 16: 12). Where he was going was beyond their comprehension, and ours. In her commentary on this verse, Kayla McClurg says:
“What gives Jesus the humility to be able to acknowledge that, yes, he has much more he would like to say but he knows his listeners cannot take it in right now? For one thing, he knows this God-human enterprise does not depend upon him alone. He has his part, and others have theirs, and the ultimate accomplishment will be God’s. He can invite us into the great ease of this awareness because he grasps it in his own depths. He does not force us to grow into the likeness of God. He simply grows into that likeness himself and invites us along” (in “Little by Little,” posted on May 22 on the Inward Outward website).
So as we venture toward the end of our journey on earth we can take comfort in the fact that death is, as is every act of the “God-human enterprise,” dependent on God and its ultimate accomplishment is God’s. The “ease of that awareness” makes “being snuffed out” (as Card puts it) easier to bear.
On the other hand, although we will not be alone at any minute of the journey, we still do have to participate in the process. Our role is to begin training for dying by learning from Jesus how to face our mortality; death is inevitable, and always inconvenient, to say the least. Our training involves learning to “let go.” Jesus’ life teaches us how to do that. He began the process of “letting go” before he was born as a human – letting go of his authority and his place in the Trinity. In the Gospel record of his time on earth, we can watch Jesus continually let go by rejecting power, popularity, material wealth, fame, political ambition – all the trappings that humans seem to desire. Instead he chose loving God and others. When death stalked him, he looked it in the face and surrendered, knowing what awaited him on the other side as he returned to his Father.
Michael Card reminds us that we were created for something more than death; we were created for something better. Like Jesus, we will cross over from death into new life. Card pictures Jesus saying to us at the end of our lives, “Come with me and rest. Be with me now in new situations. You have no idea of the glory of my Father’s presence.”
This invitation is how we learn to face death.