I’ve been hearing a lot of people talking about death recently. Everyone’s making goals for the new year, and re-ordering their thoughts to make life better. Their heart’s in the right place. But as a philosophy, it has some holes. I think it’s a step in the right direction; take your actions in light of the brevity of time – let an ultimate finality of things propel us to treasure those things which are soon to pass: relationships, opportunities, etc. This at least makes some sense… right?
Wisdom can be sobered by an awareness of death. Death may tell us to value the moment, or to make every second count. “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” This has the appearance of power. But ultimately, this translates to toil. Hear in this friends, the subtle voice of the world, creeping into even the most “wise-sounding” things. Gather! Gather! Death commands those bound to it, and enslaves them to strive through their lives, working with all their strength to make things meaningful before the grave makes it vanity.
DEATH SPEAKS BY COMMAND.
There’s an element missing. I was wondering what bothered me for some time, until I was taught a lesson by my iPhone (of all things). The app auto-corrected “grave” to “grace”. How wonderful. That was the answer. That was the missing thing. Death allows for a sobered wisdom. The axiom of: “This too shall pass” is only as meaningful as no thing is eternal, good or bad.
Because of this, a sober wisdom is no way to make isolated sense of life. It moderates extreme danger yes, but also extreme beauty. What good is there in eliminating pain if you take joy in the same sweep? A contract of Death speaks only to Wisdom’s temperance, to its moderation. It assumes a fallacy: that to overcome the hardships of life, they must be ignored. But closing your eyes in the dark is just another form of darkness. You weather the dark, not because the ability to experience will soon altogether pass away – but because the day will be coming soon! Therefore, the Joy of Wisdom must lay in a promise beyond this.
Grace is a better teacher than the Grave.
For rather than entreat the soul to labor, Grace cheers the heart with laughter and draws the spirit to rest! Laughter is so much more naturally infectious. Loud shouts, entreating you to enjoy life while it lasts, have no power. But laughter? This Grace is the ultimate promise of life – not just a life eternal in length but one eternal in depth: a deepened life. And the promise of life is far better than a contract of death.
Death coldly commands, “Enjoy because it will not last!”
Grace bubbles in laughter, “Enjoy! It’s all so beautiful! Enjoy”
I’m reminded of a story as a kid. A Storm was speaking with the Sun, discussing who was stronger. They came up with a challenge. A human walked below them wearing a raincoat. The challenge was to see who could get the person to remove the coat first. The Storm blew chilly winds with all its might, trying to force it off! But the human only gripped tighter to the raincoat. Then the Sun shone warm rays of soft light… off it came without much struggle.
GRACE SPEAKS BY LAUGHTER
I think grace works much in the same way as the Sun. Joy is not only a more powerful force than fear, if more subtle. It is also more enduring. We always ultimately act in light of our joys; even actions by fear are truly and ultimately protections of our loves from loss. In the end, it is always our joys which compel most enduringly, while fear will fade to circumstance.
The fangs of Death may command us to value the gift of each moment. But where fear lives, there can be little rest. Why submit to such a Teacher? Recall that Christ came for the very purpose of undoing the power of the Grave over our lives, cosmically and daily. Christ went through a daily and final struggle and slavery to death for us, “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death” and thereby “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery“.
Our Death cannot empower us to obey what it commands! But the light of His promise is far sweeter. Live in light of his work on your behalf! You can relax, you are allowed to enjoy things.
It’s okay to just enjoy him.
For we have his promise of life “as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” The Grave is no longer a mystery, for our Lord has gone there and returned “as a forerunner on our behalf.” So as Jesus, we also “lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely” and set our eyes on Him, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” The Lord, himself, was compelled by his joy and love.
Death commands, but the Laughter of Joy is better for the soul. Grace alone can foster in us the joy by which we cherish these moments, these many flowers…
For it harkens to the shores of a far far better country to come.