DISCLAIMER: This is less of a travel post, more of a pondering post. Yet, traveling takes us to places where we experience new views of death and life. There are new rituals, beliefs and questions. So today I write less of the philanthropy and more of the philosophy. The philosophy informs us, it guides us, shapes us and equips us. So forgive the appearance of irrelevance and allow me a moment to get to the root of fear: death.
I am not afraid of death.
And that isn’t because I don’t think about it, nor is it due to ignorance of death’s sting. I am not afraid of death, I hate it.
At times I find myself a cold academic writer: premise one, premise two, conclusion, case and point. It’s a weakness, I like to boil it down to the sheer facts, I argue for truth and rational thinking, I critique the emotional arguments and avoid tears whenever debating. But today I am not debating. I am just writing.
I am writing this, about how I am not afraid of death, because I deeply, passionately and sincerely desire that you too escape the prison of fear. In a heartfelt plead, I write humbly asking you to consider what it would mean to have an authentic hope for the redemption of death. Could death itself be redeemed? Could the “end” actually be restored into life springing forth? A leaf fallen regaining vibrant color. The river bed refilled with fresh rushing water. Dry bones reassembling, ashes dancing… Perhaps that is too surreal or fantastical for you. I find it beautiful. Inspiring. Within reach.
Please do not fear death – Because Death has lost.
(This is a moment when my heart stops my hand from writing what my head is thinking)
My heart pauses… death has lost?! Really? Did it lose when cancer stole my uncle last night? Did it lose when my cousin died in a motorcycle accident today? Did it lose when it seized my grandfather with brain cancer?! My cousin’s suicide! Death lost?! What a daring and almost cruel supposition.
Imagine there is a god. And He said that He beat death. Would YOU believe him?
Well you shouldn’t. You shouldn’t believe that “god beat death” if he created it. If he didn’t create it? He caused it? He allowed it? He did anything but beat it, right? Wrong.
Death lost. If God created death, he is cruel. But he didn’t… we did! We created death! We invited death in by hating one another, when we did not steward the Earth, when we did not trust the one who made us, when we because abusive, men mistreating women and women mistreating men. We wrecked the canvas. God painted, He designed and ordered a world with beautiful relationships, amazing artwork and no death ZERO. Yet… now there is death! Here it is in my face. Ugly. Sickening. Heart shattering. Confusing. And I hate it.
Now, please don’t jump at the proposition that we created death, quickly assuming the role of the grand defender of humanity. Rather, I invite you to sit back and carefully ponder the assertion. If this God exists, the one who gave us the opportunity and ability to love, share, run, relate, care and laugh… if HE exists, how can death also exist? My heart and my brain are now dually begging my hands to keep writing… to solve the puzzle that so deeply affects my heart, my family, my friends and my society. We are all dying.
I was exposed to death at a young age and have always been more aware of funeral protocol than many of my peers. You could psychoanalyze me and conclude that’s why I am not afraid, I am just accustomed. But can’t we all agree that death is wrong, that it is evil? Well let me explain a bit more of my thought journey, arriving in a place where I can now say:
I don’t fear death, but I hate it.
I believe, with all of my intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual abilities and powers that when death entered the world it was a corruption and a perversion of God’s design. He created life. And death was the enemy. Because this creator artistically designed a human population, his greatest dream, his truest artwork, with an ability to say “yes, no, maybe, I feel… I think… etc. etc.” and not just “yes, master” we make choices daily. Today I decided to wear a scarf, I also decided to wash the dishes, I decided to be rude to my roommate within a few hours of selfishness and I decided writing this all down would help me process the death I am encountering today. You also, made a ton of decisions today. So we are wired like God in our ability to think, feel, create and choose. The choice factor allows for ANY aspect of God’s canvas creation to go haywire. I don’t know about you but I usually don’t let anybody touch my school essays or my work projects, certainly not a rampant two year old, let alone an enemy. Well, God has to be serious about this choice thing. He can’t arbitrarily take and give freedom, otherwise, its never really freedom.
All this to say… God created us with a freedom to choose what we do. And we all know that this is the most profound love story: that the lover does not manipulate or articulate the beloved’s words into a self-serving sonnet but instead surrenders certainty and awaits her with open arms.
Here the story is interrupted by death. Not at the creation, not at God’s hands, but at our own. Not puppet hands, not matrix hands but free hands with a free head and body connected.
The thing about this “God” figure, off in the distance, is that in reality He has no distant relationship with us, He has always been near. Which is why death should not imprison us, our near God hears the nervous heartbeat and the uncertain thoughts and offers us the key to life, surrendering certainty and awaiting us with open arms. You see, death wants us to be fixated on his mysterious, shadowy glare, unable to pull back our gaze. Death would love to have us living timid and paranoid. Death always reminds us, whispers to us, “I am coming.” So I ask the cliché question, is that really living? Of course not, a life focused on death is a life crippled and restrained from its deepest purpose and fullness. This God is near to drive out fear. Actually, This God is so very near that He makes it easier to understand what it is that He has always offered us, He opens the door wider and He says, “look, here I AM, the image of the invisible God, the logos, the wisdom, the Truth – THE LIFE.” Those are bold words, Jesus. For some guy walking around Judea 2,000 years ago His words still have some deep relevance. This isn’t the Jesus who holds sweet baby lambs, white-washed with rosy cheeks, he’s not the Jesus of Westboro Baptist nor the angry preachers yelling from my university campus amphitheater. This Jesus is the one who flipped tables of the so-called religious, who gave women relevance and attention, who touched the lepers and welcomed the outcasts, this is the Jesus who healed brokenness and scolded selfishness. The Jewish man who opened eyes of the blind came with a purpose. His purpose and identity cannot be dismissed: THIS JESUS IS THE ONE WHO DEFEATS DEATH.
He is the one who replaces our fears of death with hope for life, with restoration and beauty, with wholesome and genuine relationships. I am not afraid of death because death – a product of choice, greed, confusion, pain and pride – has been defeated. We are invited to opt out of the scariest thing we have ever encountered. The question that stumps us, the reality that breaks us, the future that awaits us. We are all dying. We are not destined to be prisoners of death but rather we are beckoned to be victors in life.
Fear is crippling. I couldn’t deny that. Death is arguably the most crippling of them all, the opposite of the design, the corruption of our very being, the end of our understanding and the fullest pain and heartbreak of our dying world. So we search for a solution. (I find that we are either seekers or we are apathetic – I do not grant a third category for a human being.)
In the searching process we run into a wall of ideologies. BAM: Buddha, Bible, Enlightenment, Yoga, Stars, Aliens, Physics, Mohammad, Yahweh, YOLO, Fate, Marx, Maximized Utility, Fulfillment, Health & Wealth etc.
But I must tell you: all religions, all ideologies, all philosophies ARE NOT EQUAL. This is a fallacy repeated in the realm of apathy and ignorance. It avoids deep tensions and reduces reality, but matters of life and death are worth your time and attention. Allow your mind and your heart the experience of earnestly seeking truth. I have given you my honest defense, rather, my appeal, for why I seek and how I find freedom from death in a way that revolutionizes my understanding of my worth, that strips my fears and inspires me to offer you the same relief, the same escape and the same spring of life… Overflowing, bubbling, rushing through a once dry river bed.
As I have sought I have encountered many solutions for the questions of life and death. But ultimately, I do beg you, in a heartfelt and humble plead, please consider what it would mean to have an authentic hope for the redemption of death through Jesus Christ, the Life.
I am not afraid of death. Will you be?