Sometimes dreams can slip between your fingers like so much rushing sand. A helium-filled balloon headed quickly skyward, the shocked child’s hand reaches to the ever-smaller orb in the big, wide sky, “Come back!”
There’s been a lot of back and forth about assisted suicide this week. I felt a steady anger burn within my heart when words like “courageous” were spoken about the young lady’s decision to end her life on her own time clock, by her own hand. No, thought I, courageous are those who face suffering and endure to the end, who take the lumps with the gravy, the sorrows of life with it’s joys, who don’t circumnavigate suffering, who don’t demand control. Her decision smells of fear, not courage. And her legacy? To encourage cultural and societal acceptance of assisted suicide. Lord, have mercy.
We are a society that doesn’t want to feel against our will. So there’s pills for headaches, and there’s pills for our depression and there’s divorce for relationships gone sour. There’s all sorts of psychobabble gaining traction about setting up scads of boundaries and getting rid of negative people in your life and the main message is that your happiness and personal fulfillment are worth any cost; that selfishness is really good and something you owe to yourself. To your enthroned and sovereign self.
It came to me as I hiccuped back some emotion lingering from a good, hard cry, as I washed the breakfast dishes on this sunny Sunday morning, that maybe what we’re willing to die to is just as important as what we’re willing to live for. What we’re willing to suffer for the sake of another, for the sake of something nobler, for the sake of God, that it just might be right there where God finds His seeds germinating within us, His image unfolding, just a bit. It’s about the dying.
Jesus knows about that. Death to his own understandable desire to not have to suffer the torture of crucifixion:
“Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Mark 14:36
He died to easier routes, to many temptations laid-out for Him in the desert when Satan came to test his mettle, and found it strong. He lived a daily dying, en route to death, that we might live. I think about that.
“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” -Luke 9:23
Our culture says “me, me, me” and Christ says “deny yourself”, “take up your cross”, “follow Me”, unto even death. Even a death of suffering. Even a life made acutely painful through giving up dreams held dearly, sacrificing our desires for the sake of others, and letting go when our hands most want to grip tight.
It’s about the dying. Which is also about the living.
“He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” -Mathew 10:19
That somehow, some way, an unshakeable, un-loseable blessing is present riding alongside the pain, the denial of self, the suffering. A life found.
Hands no longer full of sand, no longer gripping the balloon string, hands painfully empty, yearning in the dying, and maybe it’s just then, that God can take our empty hands in His own and fill them unchangeably full.