The Last Enemy

So I've been thinking about death recently.  With Isaiah 40 in view for Community Bible Study this week, and conversations with Nat and finishing reading a biography of Bonhoeffer -- well.  Apparently my thoughts all synthesized while I was sleeping last night.  So here goes.

A voice says, "Cry!"
and I said, "What shall I cry?"
All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field...
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Seeing how fragile and fleeting my life is gives me courage, not despair -- since I know the eternality of the living Word of God.  Since my life is so temporary -- and designedly so -- I should have no fear in using, risking, or losing it.

As Jim Elliot said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

No fool at all; he is wise and blessed.  May that knowledge motivate me to live courageously this year and every year after.

Natalie and I last night were discussing the nature of reality (you know, nothing big) with plenty of CS Lewis and speculative physics in there.  Wondering at how it seems that we live no only on the very edge of reality and not at all fully immersed in or experiencing it.  That concept to me makes utter sense biblically, since we know that we live in the middle of spiritual dimensions that we are barely aware of and rarely see, and because of 1 Corinthians 13:9-12.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,
even as I have been known.

(I know that 1 Corinthians 13 is commonly used as a wedding text; I'd prefer it for a funeral text.)

And finally, Bonhoeffer.  I finished Metaxas's biography of him late last night/early this morning, and it does have a lot of issues, but I also deeply appreciated how much reading it challenged me.  More thoughts for another time about all that.

Bonhoeffer preached,

"That life really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up, that is for young and old alike to think about.  Why are we so afraid when we think about death?... How do we know that dying is so dreadful?  Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish, we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world?"

And as I woke up early this morning with those thought bouncing inside my head, I couldn't go back to sleep.  It's all too exciting and glorious and resonant, as if someone struck a chord deep within my soul and I can only respond with joyful worship.  Maybe death really is similar to a quantum leap for humans, and so I have nothing to fear, because I know God and am known by Him.

I think that I finally understand the words, "no guilt in life, no fear in death" and the image that I have of death as stepping off of an airplane (which, since I love flying, is one of my favorite things), and the end of The Last Battle.  More than I've understood before, at least.  Though I will say that the bereavement of those left behind still seems harsh and terrible to me, as I suppose it must.

I opened this morning to these words in The Valley of Vision:

I am not afraid to look the king of terrors in the face
for I know I shall be drawn, not driven, out of the world.
Until then let me continually glow and burn out for Thee,
and when that last great change shall come
let me awake in Thy likeness.

And finally, there's these words from 1 Corinthians 15 -- I do so love the certain, triumphant laughter that echoes through these lines:

The last enemy to be defeated is death.
...When the perishable puts on the imperishable,
and the mortal puts on immortality,
then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
"Death is swallowed up in victory."
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?


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