Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I'm Not Ready Yet!

So… yesterday Roberta and I are having cappuccinos with our friends Tony and Catherine (Tony makes great cappuccinos) when somehow the conversation turns to the subject of death, specifically, the fear of death. Don't ask me how this happened, I can't remember, but at one point the comment was made that being afraid of death seems contrary to faith. After all, if you truly believe in the security of the believer and the afterlife, then death would actually be a good thing – wouldn't it?

And yet, even as people of faith, we continue to have this apprehension about death and cling to this life. Why? If we believe in the reality of heaven as such a wonderful place, and that God has the authority to determine the length of our life here on earth, then should we not welcome the time of our passing when it comes?

The same seems to be true for the Second Coming as well. Catherine noted that as a young Christian in the Baptist church she was encouraged to look forward to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ; and rightly so. She remembers however, her own response as being something akin to: "Yes, Come Lord Jesus; but not until I finish school", and then "not until I get married", and then "not until I've had children", etc. etc. She's not alone; I've heard these same sentiments many times. Many Christians, I think, would rather see the end of Revelation read, "Maranatha come Lord Jesus, but not until I'm ready."

Even the heroes of faith in the Bible would appear to have the same apprehensions. What prompted me to write about this today is this passage from Psalm 6 that turned up in my meditations over coffee at Tim Horton's this morning. I thought the timing after last night's conversation rather interesting.

Return, O LORD, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies' sake!
For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks? Psalm 6:4-5

Where's the confidence of the afterlife in this statement? David loved God more than most in his day and yet was still afraid of the prospect of dying. Contrast this with Paul's response in his letter to the Philippians.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Phil. 1:21-23

Many of us would like to think that we share this sentiment, myself included. But when faced with the reality of our mortality we are far more likely to sound like David. We desire to see Jesus and be with Him, but like I said earlier, not until we're ready. The reason for this I think is not our fear of death but rather the fear of what comes afterward. In this most of us fall into one of two categories:

1. What if the Bible is wrong? Can I face that possibility?
2. What if the Bible is right? Can I face that possibility?

The fact remains that regardless of how much we love God, or how much we convince ourselves of the reality of the Bible's promises, many of us still regard death as, to use Shakespeare's phrase, "the undiscovered country." We certainly hope in the promise of the afterlife, and take comfort in it, but it is still the great scary unknown. Even if we've decided there is an afterlife, how certain are we that we will qualify. No matter how long one has been a Christian, there are, from time to time, questions we aren't sure of the answers to.
Is that a lack of faith, or just being all too human? I'm not entirely sure. On more than one occasion Jesus meet the needs of those who admitted to a smallness of faith, other times he cites their lack of faith as the roadblock in their lives. I guess ultimately, it's a question each of us has to sort out for ourselves.



3 comments:

Margaret Jones said...

Hi Dennis,
Congratulations on a very creative web page...it is attractive and very thought- provoking!
I am reminded of 2 of my favourite authors' comments on the topic of our attitudes as Christians towards approaching death. One of them has already made The Journey, and that is Henri Nouwen. In his book, " Reaching Out" he makes a connection I find interesting, where he links unhealthy relationships/ dependencies on each other other, to delusions of immortality
( ours' and others'). He says,
" When our unfulfilled needs lead us to demand from our fellow human beings what they cannot give, we make them into idols and ourselves into devils. By asking for more than a human response, we are tempted to behave as less than human. By acting on the illusion that the world belongs to us as private property which nobody ever can take away from us, we become a threat to each other and make intimacy impossible. To reach a really nonviolent imtimacy, we have to unmask our illusion of immortality, fully accept death as our human destiny and reach out beyond the limits of our existence to our God out of whose intimacy we are born." I find those comments both insightful and personally challenging!
Another favourite author of mine is Graham Cooke. He speaks of having a " can't wait!" eager anticipation of death, since it will be another great adventure with Jesus. I aspire to that attitude, but can't say I'm there yet!
By the way, Nouwen would be coming from the Contemplative stream, and Cooke from the Charismatic. I've decided my preferred stream must be "Contempmatic" since I like swimming in both:-)

Margaret Jones said...

Hi Dennis,
Congratulations on a very creative web page...it is attractive and very thought- provoking!
I am reminded of 2 of my favourite authors' comments on the topic of our attitudes as Christians towards approaching death. One of them has already made The Journey, and that is Henri Nouwen. In his book, " Reaching Out" he makes a connection I find interesting, where he links unhealthy relationships/ dependencies on each other other, to delusions of immortality
( ours' and others'). He says,
" When our unfulfilled needs lead us to demand from our fellow human beings what they cannot give, we make them into idols and ourselves into devils. By asking for more than a human response, we are tempted to behave as less than human. By acting on the illusion that the world belongs to us as private property which nobody ever can take away from us, we become a threat to each other and make intimacy impossible. To reach a really nonviolent imtimacy, we have to unmask our illusion of immortality, fully accept death as our human destiny and reach out beyond the limits of our existence to our God out of whose intimacy we are born." I find those comments both insightful and personally challenging!
Another favourite author of mine is Graham Cooke. He speaks of having a " can't wait!" eager anticipation of death, since it will be another great adventure with Jesus. I aspire to that attitude, but can't say I'm there yet!
By the way, Nouwen would be coming from the Contemplative stream, and Cooke from the Charismatic. I've decided my preferred stream must be "Contempmatic" since I like swimming in both:-)

Margaret Jones said...

Hi Dennis,
Congratulations on a very creative blog page. It's attractive, and your initial comments very thought provoking!
I am reminded of comments by two of my favourite authors on the subject of our attitude as Christians to our approaching death. One of them has already made The Journey, Henri Nouwen. In his book Reaching Out, he makes an interesting connection between unhealthy/dependent relationships with others, and our delusions of immortality ( both theirs' and ours'). He says," When our unfulfilled needs lead us to demand from our fellow human beings what they cannot give, we make them into idols and ourselves into devils. By asking for more than a human response we are tempted to behave as less than human. By acting on the illusion that the world belongs to us as private property which nobody ever can take away from us, we become a threat to each other and make intimacy impossible. To reach a really nonviolent intimacy, we have to unmaks our illusion of immortality, fully accept death as our human destiny and reach out beyond the limits of our existence to our God out of whose imtimacy we are born."
Another favourite author of mine is Graham Cooke. He speaks of having a " can't wait!" attitude towards death, since it is another Great Adventure with Jesus. I aspire to that perspective, but can't say I'm there yet!
By the way, Nouwen would be coming from a Contemplative Stream and Cooke from the Charismatic. I've concluded that since I like to swim in both streams, my preference must be the
" Contempmatic" Stream :-)