At a course I attended once, we were instructed to work out in our small groups a list of things we absolutely had to do – no choice. After much discussion it emerged that only two things were totally imperative, everything else was a matter of choice, and not liking the consequences. Those two things? Taking up space, and dying.
There’s plenty of discussion about how much space I take up – dieting, fashion, dress size…but dying? It’s still a major taboo. And yet we cannot circumnavigate it. We must do it. It’s a part of life.
In Genesis 35:6-8, we read about Jacob naming two places – one where he built an altar and had his highest spiritual experience, and the other where a family servant was buried. The latter story, about Deborah, seems to be a bit of an intrusion in the wider story, with no links to anything else. You wouldn’t miss it if it was omitted. But there it is. Death in the midst of life.
These days, in my culture, most people die in hospital, where it’s clean, sanitized and behind screens. So for the most part, we pretend it’s not there. It doesn’t happen. Or at least not to me.
Then we wonder why our society is so secular; why everyone lives for the ‘here and now’, why sickness is brushed under the carpet as inconvenient, and why old age is something to be ashamed of.
Jesus came that we might live life to the full. And full life includes the mountaintop spiritual experience; but it also includes weeping. Sad things happen. We live, we love, we lose, and we learn to trust in our God who will see us through every stage of life. And best of all, as we grow in trusting God through the tougher experiences of life here on earth, we can develop our confidence in him who will never leave us or forsake us, either in life here or in the new life to come.