Debbie Salter Goodwin
A Time to Die
When life’s dark maze I tread and griefs around me spread. . . .* The words from the familiar hymn remind us that death comes in many ways. Something ends: a job, a relationship, a dream. The final realization that something hoped for, planned for, expected will not happen can bring as much grief and paralysis as the physical death of someone you love.
Add to those spreading griefs the ongoing realization of our own mortality and how hard we work to prevent it. However, there aren’t enough healthy practices to help us avoid our appointment with death. When death becomes a daily shadow, time is precious and days are pearls.
How can we live with this rhythm without losing our joy? How is it possible to accept that what flows will ebb, that what is here will go away, that there will not always be birthdays to celebrate, that funerals will gather us as well? How is it possible to make peace with that rhythm, especially when it comes close to our lives in unwanted ways?
We choose life. We celebrate sunrises and sunsets. We hold family close. We refuse to succumb to tyrannies that rob us from enjoying what work or status or money can’t provide. We live open. We live awake. We live!
We find courage in knowing that we live in God’s knowledge of our days. The timelines we do not know, He knows. Out of His great mercy, He keeps that information for us so that we will not misuse it. He doesn’t want us distracted. He wants His abundant life to define, invigorate, and winsomely connect with everyone He brings into our circle. We use His direction to keep our lives in His rhythm. We will always face more death when we don’t.
Living between birth and death is all we have on this earth, but it is not all we have. Created in His image, we long for more life. God promises more, but not here on earth. Eternal life in this broken world would be more punishment than gift. On a day we do not know, the door between mortal and immortal will open. We will be lifted up by the Love that created us, sustained us and will welcome us into new life we can only imagine. A time to die will become, in a new and purer way, our time to be born. It is part of the rhythm.
Until then, all else is a rehearsal. The rhythm of birth and death continues. We celebrate and grieve. We welcome and say good-bye. However, when we fill that rhythm with gratitude, live without dread or fear, live for the joy God set before us; we use this life as our bridge. And we keep building it until God tells us it is finished. God wants us to know life as He knows it, unbounded, full, and complete. As His children, we live to receive His final gift. A new rhythm begins and death has nothing to do with it ever again.
* “My Faith Looks Up to Thee,” Ray Palmer