Monday, November 21, 2011

Where is thy sting?

Sitting on my couch yesterday, watching a television show about a family facing the potential loss of one of their sons, something dawned on me: I fear my own mortality. I fear death. Not the hereafter, but death and dying itself.

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

St. Paul’s question rings out to all the ages, yet I’ve found an answer: death is right here, within me, within my very bones. One day, far off or near, I will die. It may be sudden, or it may be a prolonged spiral down a road of brokenness. The consequence is the same. I will die.

In saying that, however, I’m released. I’m released to face my own mortality…to face that dark shroud hounding me each and every day. I’m free to face that dark shroud and declare, ‘You’ve got no real power over me.’ And it’s true. Death has no power over me. It has no power because it is an inevitability we all will face. It’s not as if swallows up some and ignores the rest. Death will take us all. And in its inability to be selective, it truly loses all of its power.

It loses all of its power precisely because it is an unavoidable reality, and coming to terms with that unavoidability frees us from the illusion that we can outrun it, escape it, or triumph over it with human ingenuity and a little elbow grease. We can embrace it and say, with all those who have gone before us, ‘I’m going to die. So be it.’

The true test of our humanity, and whether or not we are triumphing over death, co-heirs with the power of Christ’s resurrection, is not, ‘Do I possess enough courage to banish my fear of death?’ No, not banishment at all. The real question follows: ‘Do I posses enough courage to face my death and still relish in the miracles of every breath, every birdsong, every breaking wave, and every gentle kiss?’

Death only wins when we shrivel and collapse at its very mention.

Death loses when we see it, embrace it, and courageously declare, ‘So be it.’

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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