His words grip me. “If the Gospel seems irrelevant to our daily lives, that is our fault, not the Gospel’s. For if death is not a daily reality, then Christ’s triumph over death is neither daily nor real.”
I reread the longer section several times:
“Death doesn’t wait till the ends of our lives to meet us and to make an end. Instead, we die a hundred times before we die; and all the little endings on the way are like a slowly growing echo of the final Bang! before that bang takes place. It’s like turning the record backward. Each lesser echo, each little death, has not only its own immediate sorrow; it draws fear and horror from the absoluteness of the last end, the real slamming of the door, the mortal and eternal BANG!. . . .
If you think you can’t endure the broader definition of death, the knowledge that it hazards every good relationship, daily striking things asunder (attending every party we poor humans plan), I would not argue. Nor would I call you weak. Such knowledge is intolerable. That’s why the world simply ducks it, deluding itself, pretending by all means (from hedonism to folksy forms of philosophy to vague spirituality) that death is no horror, that death is not.
But you – you have a present Savior with whom to meet and wrestle a present death. Surely, in such company you need not ignore this enemy as the fearful world does. And the more you recognize death around you, the sweeter will seem the love of the LORD. You will know him better; you will realize the pragmatic and immediate power of his salvation – for wherever death is, there can also be the manifestation of his glorious victory. And you, child- you may stride with freedom, even through the difficulties, grief and the hard road, mourning and bereavement.
If the Gospel seems irrelevant to our daily lives, that is our fault, not the Gospel’s. For if death is not a daily reality, then Christ’s triumph over death is neither daily nor real. Worship and proclamation and even faith itself take on a dream-like, unreal air, and Jesus is reduced to something like a long-term insurance policy, filed and forgotten – whereas he can be our necessary ally, an immediate continuing friend, the Holy Destroyer of Death and the Devil, my own beautiful Savior.” (Walter Wangerin Jr., “Mourning into Dancing” p. 26-30)
I think long. What does it mean for me, today, not to fear the daily dyings but to walk into them with the One who has conquered death? I write a long list. But it all reduces to this one thing: a choice not to hide.
Facing the daily dyings means learning to be honest with others. Stepping out from behind “I’m fine. Really.” Refusing to tell only the “nice” bits of my story. Continuing to share even when all I have to share is weakness, trusting that God will show up with grace in the midst of the mess. It means gratefully welcoming those willing to walk with me through the messy places and letting Jesus teach me how to walk well with others in their own difficult spaces. Refusing to hide behind cliches. Letting Him take me, eyes open, into the places where there are no answers, only Presence.
Facing the daily dyings means not skimming the hard bits of the gospel. Letting His eyes look deep into me. Even when the shattering of my pride burns like fire.
It means choosing to stop fighting reality. Accepting my limitations. Learning to live within them graciously.
At first this thought frightened me. If I let go, stopped fighting the daily deaths and allowed myself to see them, would I still be able to get up in the morning? I have long relied on willpower (and denial?) to get myself out of bed. How would letting myself see the daily deaths – and the victory beyond – compare? I wondered if perhaps I could keep pushing physically but release control to God in other areas. . .
But I discovered something so obvious it’s easy to miss. All the bits of me – body, mind, soul – are so entwined that I cannot keep fighting in one area and surrender in another. If I live the daily physical life by sheer willpower, I am also fighting grace that calls me to come just as I am, in the midst of my mess and pride and helplessness to fix any of it.
Grace coaxes me to try it on, this new way of being. I give in, let go, lie down. I face the daily deaths, trusting the One who conquered death to lead me through.
And I find the words of Wangerin true. I let go, expecting to feel myself falling, but discover instead arms beneath, waiting to lead me into life. I stop pushing, stop clinging (for a few minutes at least!). . . and find life full. I miss a meal with friends, but am available for a soul-strengthening chat with another friend. I can’t go to a musical, but Jesus meets me in the silence and shows me his grace. And I discover that this call to stop fighting the daily deaths is really a call to walk through them into life with the One who knows the route well.