No one ever said Death was pretty…and how to work through it.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. ” John 12:24
I face death every day. I Corinthians 15:31
And we talk about “dying to self”.
But no one ever said Death was pretty.
Somehow, I seemed to have forgotten that. And when we found out we were having our sixth child and I prepared to endure the nine months of a thousand little deaths to myself so that new life could emerge, I boldly claimed and expected that God would meet us in the struggle.
He has. He is. and He will.
But there is some bloody, stinky death going on here. And I forgot that death is never pretty. Even when God is in it.
There’s the death to my self-sufficiency, which I can so easily rely on when I have my normal amount of strength and energy.
There’s the death of my pride, as debilitating fatigue has landed me on my bed, at the mercy of people making meals for us and randomly being willing to watch a kid or two.
There’s the death of my banking on my ability to stand on the promises of God’s Word, and all my emotional and mental mess comes oozing out and I’m not “strong in my faith” or “able to keep it together (with the help of Jesus)”.
And then there’s the death of the logistics, like my kids showing up to church with mismatched socks, and a husband who reminded me again that he doesn’t have any clean boxers, and the incredible number of crumbs all over my kitchen floor (
when you are lying down ON the floor, you get a great view of it all…I mean, of course I wasn’t sprawled out on the kitchen floor while I waited for the casserole to finish cooking), and the peanut butter smeared all over my black shirt when I showed up for the school meeting because I was too tired to change and too tired to care.
Over here, death just isn’t pretty.
And when life spins out of control, and you face the actual death of a loved one and all the despairing grief that comes with it, or you’re faced with cancer or a chronic illness, or you’re called into ministry in an intensely hard place where loneliness and fear can suck the life out of you, and whatever it might be, you, in faith (and fear) move into that place of personal death, over and over again, and then you find yourself in a muddled and messy mix of emotions, doubts, strivings, and dimmed hope. “Where did my faith go?” you might ask.
Maybe you, too, have forgotten that Death is never pretty.
So stop expecting it to be.
But as I recall, it wasn’t very pretty 2,000 years ago either.
There was blood spilled when Jesus was scourged, and there were probably bruises and disjoined limbs, and drool coming out of that busted lip from being beaten by the mocking soldiers, and there was an inability to even carry his own cross up the hill of Golgotha, and there was heavy panting and a desperate crying out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?!?!”
Its OK to have a bloody mess of emotions dripping down your face. Its OK to cry out in agonizing pain. Its OK to whimper there, try to catch your bearings and suck in your next breath. Its OK to ask those questions, “God, where are you?”.
Death isn’t pretty, and it isn’t naturally desired. But if we are a people called out, made different, made new by the very Presence of God within us, then our minds about death will change. Our minds will change, because our hearts are changed by the One who was the Forerunner into ultimate death, so that all the deaths we die are just a folding of ourselves up under Him bearing it all for us. Our hearts and minds will be willing to embrace death, in all its messiness and agony, and declare in hope and faith “There is resurrection to come!” even when heart is hurting, and tears are flowing and mind is reeling.
For as we gaze on the face of the Forsaken One, with all blood dripping down and heart bursting, we remember what came three days later. Resurrection. Yes. Resurrection. There is a joy, a glory, a resurrection on the other side of all the messy death we suffer through. And just like Jesus did, we will set our hearts on the joy set before us, enduring the cross, scorning its shame that we might sit with God on the other side. (Hebrews 12:2)
For as Christians,
there IS another side.
to this messy, ugly death we face.