death sucks

Today when I woke up I had hoped the news from last night would have changed. However, this morning only confirmed the truth I knew the night before, Ozzie Guillen is no longer the skipper for, in my opinion, the greatest baseball team ever to take the field, The Chicago White Sox. A lot of people, especially, in the city of Chicago don’t have the same appreciation for the hometown heroes on the south side of town but I do. Why? Because Sox baseball is honest baseball and Ozzie Guillen was an honest manager.

He was always much maligned for his antics and “Ozzie being Ozzie” but the truth is he never pulled a punch, never pretended to be something he was not and always wanted the best for his players, the Sox, and the city of Chicago. The media has a way of spinning things and Ozzie was as much a victim of that as anyone else, he just seemed to make it easier for them to do that. Thats the thing about Sox fans, we don’t like bs. We don’t pretend the Sox are great when they do nothing. Ozzie didn’t either and for that I will always love and respect the man who helped bring a trophy to the South Side of Chicago.

But Ozzie leaving wasn’t the saddest news I learned all week, not by a long shot. In the end it is just baseball, as insignificant as anything else that doesn’t deal with real life. This Sunday I received a text from a friend of mine letting me know that a pastor in St. Louis had decided to end his own life. I did not know him all that well but I know people who did. Needless to say it was something that nobody saw coming. I can’t help but wonder why.

During difficult time it is callous to ask the question of if we did enough to ensure this wouldn’t have happened. Outside of the obvious reality that suicide is a faultless tragedy the fact is we will never know that answer. Trying to understand things like why people make the choices they make is never an easy thing because we do not live inside the mind of another. However, not being able to understand what transpired in the mind of another does not mean we cannot learn from the situation.

Death is an altogether uncomfortable subject because of its finality. There really is no way to reverse it and when the death of someone close to us happens we are left in a state of shock. Some people try to explain it. This had to happen because… Or it’s God’s plan to teach us something. But answers like that do nothing more than leave me wondering if anyone understands the pain and shock associated with death because during such a time platitudes like that are often empty and fruitless exercises in rhetoric. Using those fire escape sayings denies the reality of what we are experiencing, something that shouldn’t be happening. DEATH SUCKS.

Personally I’m sick of hearing that death is a natural part of life, a conclusion as inevitable as eating or breathing. I cannot accept such a romanticizing of death because I don’t think death is natural, at least it wasn’t in the beginning. At the risk of sounding fundamentalist I do not believe death was part of God’s design for His beloved creation. Death wasn’t part and parcel in the garden of Eden, it was a result of the curse from the events that transpired inside those walls. In fact, I think its in understanding death as an enemy that we can actually begin to deal with it. Although I do see death as an enemy I do not see it as something to be feared.

Christianity has a way of souring the taste of some pretty beautiful assertions. Take for example eternal life. How often do we hear that the reason someone needs to accept Christ or not reject His grace it comes with the assertion that if one doesn’t do so they will spend eternity in Hell. But to paint the picture this way I think misses the point. Christ didn’t die to save people from hell, he died to save them from death. As bassackwards as it sounds the only way to conquer death was to die and then rise again. It is in that second part that Christians actually trust, the resurrection of the dead. Another way to understand it is because of Christ Christians know that death is not their end.

But what do we do with that message? We corrupt it and turn it into something altogether undesirable. We turn into a message of an angry God waiting to send people to hell or waiting to let them send themselves there. But I don’t think hell is the real point and I think by reducing the Christian message to an avoidance of an eternal hell misses the point of the crucifixion. At the cross Christ took on the curse from the Garden of Eden. On him the sin of the world was placed. On him God’s wrath was poured out in its entirety. On the cross Christ took on death in all its finality. But death could not stop Him, and this is the point, HE ROSE AGAIN. Death is no longer an end. It is not something to fear.

Death will never be something we can understand. We can try and point to why things happen but the truth is we will never know why this happens or that happens. We will never know why cancer takes him and not her. We will never know why she chooses to take her life and he doesn’t. What we do know however is that although death is ultimately what unites all humanity it is not something we have to fear or even try to understand because death has lost its sting. Recognizing this allows us the ability to enter into the rooms of the sick with hope. It allows us to come alongside those who mourn and mourn with them, going through the pain of it all with out trying to explain it away. It allows us to be freed from fear and embrace life in all its beauty. And when we do that, when we are able to embrace life for all it is we realize something, that others are worth fighting for.

Fear paralyzes people. It forces them to put their own concerns over that of another. But when we recognize that death is not the final nail in the coffin and when we let go of the fear associated with such an event we realize that we no longer have to live for ourselves because we know we are taken care of. But what about the guy next to me or the girl across the hall? What about them? Are they taken care of? Do they know they are loved? Do they know that they are cared for and respected? Do they know that they have a life worth living? I think when these are the kinds of questions we start asking with regularity we will realize that we are all part of a greater community. A community that loves with reckless abandon. A community that seeks to care for each and every other person not because we have to, but because we can.

Death sucks. But we don’t need to worry about our own fate. We don’t need to wonder when our ticket will be punched. We know that death is not our end. But knowing it, and living in recognition of that are two different things. Hopefully we will have the courage to do that latter.

3 thoughts on “death sucks

  1. Eric

    I hear in your thinking some echos of things I’ve enjoyed in C. S. Lewis. We humans are a species that is irreconcilably uncomfortable with death, and even with time. Why? Because we were never meant to die. We were not originally created to ever be separated from the ones we love. The fish doesn’t notice the water, but we notice time and finality all. the. time. (no pun intended)
    My wife says that if we really, Really, REALLY “got” the truth of how liberated we are in Christ from death, then we would dare incredible things. But we fear not only literal death, but the little deaths of failure, of looking foolish, of just making sacrifices. You’d think those little deaths would be the easier fears to overcome. But no.
    Fear really does paralyze us. “Fear is the mindkiller,” as Frank Herbert wrote. Maybe more than just the mind, Frank.
    Keep thinking, Matt. There are good, important things being recorded here in your blog. And, selfishly, it’s as close as I get to having a nice, long conversation with you now and again.

    Peace and joy.

    1. Thanks for your kind words and keeping an ear my way. The year I have had since I left St. Louis has put into perspective so much for me and I really do appreciate your thoughts and opinions as I work through my experiences and theology out loud. I find more and more that I am coming down on things close if not in line with missouri and one day I hope to come back home. Thanks again.

  2. Steve Miller

    Wonderful piece.

    My favorite quote: “At the risk of sounding fundamentalist”

    Your point is something I’ve really come to appreciate. God isn’t a mean old man who did something nice for the kids on his block and now waits for them to all like him or believe he’s a good guy or the way to go. The point isn’t heaven or hell. As you put it, the point is death. And I don’t think your a fundy, though I may bring that up in the future. The point is, death wasn’t supposed to be a part of this place, and God’s taken care of it. He’s taken death’s sting away.

    Well put my friend. Your thoughts are very much treasured.

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