|The view from the upstairs bedroom window at the end of the hall|
|Typing this blog post with a cup of tea|
This week a young man died, a friend of my nephew, my niece, and of several college aged kids I know. By all accounts he was the finest of young Christian men. I did not know him. He was serving in Europe as a short-term missionary and went to Switzerland briefly, near Interlaken, I think. There he went on a hike and did not return. He fell. Interlaken and its lovely environs are where I spent five delightful months working at a chalet after college. I walked some of those trails but was no hiker.
Many hearts are grieving this inexplicable loss. That this young man is with Jesus and enjoyably discovering his happy eternity, neither I nor his friend and family have any doubt. But isn't it strange and troubling how we die? Why do we die in such varied and unexpected ways? A young athlete in the prime of his days decides to hike on a summer day, and he falls and dies. I know God prescribes our lives, every moment of them, and has ordained our deaths. We live not one moment more nor less than He wills, and His plans are neither arbitrary nor cruel. This is a great comfort.
But consider this: every human being comes onto the planet the same way. Egg + sperm = human. You may tweak the method a bit, but in the end we all enter life through that single door. Yet we exit through a million doors. God could have instituted a single way to die, as in, "Everyone will die of heart attack." And we'd be used to that, and expect it. Instead, we live every second of our lives not knowing which second will be our last. Or which second will be our loved one's last. Or worse, how it will occur! It's unsettling and frightening. In this seeming chaos of death-by-a-million-methods, I believe some of our antipathy toward death lies.
To be blunt, I wish I knew why, when God said this young man's last day had arrived, that He also decided he would die by falling on a Swiss mountain. Could God have let him die in some other manner not quite so disturbing? Why this way? Why must some deaths take grueling years to accomplish, and others a fraction of a second? Is this simply God's way of showing us that the Fall, and its handmaiden Death, reaches its tentacles into our existence in a million ways, with a million different deaths?
This young man is already living his Hope. He would have been there in 50 years, regardless, which may sound flippant -- I apologize if this hurts or offends anyone. As I age and get closer to the time of usual dying, my own life seems so short and almost futile to me. What have I done of much worth? I have loved a little, conquered a little, birthed four children -- but what will they do? I do feel that our lives are a mere gasp for air before surfacing, a troubled dream before awaking. Is it perhaps better to awaken earlier and move on to eternity?
We grieve. I've not had much close grieving in my life. I hope I will not grieve as someone who has no Hope, no eternity for myself or for someone else. May I grieve for my own loss, that I must remain in my troubled dreaming without the loved one who made the dream more bearable. But to begrudge someone his awaking? No. May we all embrace the truth that the Christian does not die. He escapes death. in the moment we leave this earth, we run past Death, only in its shadow, and snatch victory from its teeth.
The sun is on the roof now. A faint line of closer hills emerges from the fog. By lunch, the Blue Ridge will be clear as a bell.