LENTEN SERIES: An Introduction To My History With Death
I hate that things die. Everything does, I know. I’ve just never gotten used to it. I don’t know that I want to.
I have never had the wisdom or clarity to draw a clean line between the deeper, more settled acceptance of “death-as-part-of-being-human” and the childish, playfulness in which death is fashionably caricatured as tattoos and stickers and posters, too often created, worn and displayed by those who’ve yet to be deeply touched by Death itself.
“Respect” is as far as I’ve honestly gotten in relationship to Death. But even that respect is tinged with fear… and sadness.
Even among my religious tribe and Family, I’ve often felt a tad out of step. Some of that has to do with the very Cross of Jesus.
It’s on stationary.
It’s on t-shirts
It’s on boxer shorts.
It’s on flags…. even flags featuring symbols antithetical to the character of Jesus and his allegiances.
It’s on mud flaps.
The Cross of Jesus is often displayed with a casual flair, bent towards fashionability in a kind of dismissive forgetfulness of the fact that…
He actually died.
Not just symbolically or metaphorically (though there is something to say for that).
He died physically and historically.
His life ended.
And while you may not buy the Biblical account that Jesus rose from the grave (I happen to), you have to buy the historical reality that he died.
And when he did, the people who knew and loved him fell apart… some of them entirely.
All of which has often led me to wonder why I’d been so comfortable wearing a cross around my neck or inked on my shirt or even scribbled one into a notebook.
Because I know as a fact that I’m not that casual and cozy with Death.
My friend Scott Erickson calls this a “conversation with your eventual disappearance.” Theologian Walter Brueggemann elaborates on that conversation, writing…
“Only those who embrace the reality of death will receive the new life. Implicit in his statement is that those who do not mourn will not be comforted and those who do not face the endings will not receive the beginnings. The alternative community knows it need not engage in deception… only grievers can experience their experiences and move on.”
I love being alive and I don’t want my life end. But I don’t get that option. And I have come to grips with the reality that the shadow of Death (loss, sadness, grief) isn’t just part of being alive; it’s definitive.
As part of the Lenten practice I think I need, I’ll be writing and sharing a few short (and rough) reflections on the moments in my history in which I’ve come in more intimate contact with Death.
The first installment will go up immediately after this one.
Some of those moments are clearer and crisper in my memory. Some of them are still haunted with sadness
All of them have shaped me, as a living person.
All of them have offered pathways towards my own resurrection and new life.