I Sometimes Envy the Dead…

in a certain kind of way. Yet, before you get worried or call 911 or think I’m off my rocker I need to explain what I mean because in a Christian context that statement is remarkably different from how it may be expressed in the world.

As I get older I have the advantage and disadvantage of having more experience, of having seen more of life than I did when I was in my youth and physical prime. There’s a good to that because one can learn much and gain wisdom if their eyes and ears and heart is open through the years to take in and learn the lessons of life. I sometimes tell people that I wish I had everything I know about the world now and my 18-year-old body. Alas, my whole self has had to travel through time to get to this point and while parts of my body are already beginning their slow decline,  I feel a sense of depth, wholeness, and understanding flourishing within of the kind that only comes with age.

The disadvantage that comes with age is that experience is also the experience of years of struggle and pain. The longer one lives the more one sees of war, poverty, brokenness, all the pathologies birthed in human sin. Such things stack up over the years and they can be wearying to the soul. Within myself I am continually reminded of enduring temptations and challenges and without I see a world simultaneously full of great beauty and great pain. It can be overwhelming.

And because of that as I get older I am growing less wary of death. Yes, I would still like to live because there is much that is worth keeping alive even in a fallen world. There are places to go, things to see, people to meet, and above all there is still, despite our best efforts to extinguish it, love and hope everywhere if people would only look up from their phones to see it. This world is still a place of God’s grace and an arena where we can know and live in it.

Still I see the gift that is death, at least if you see it from the Orthodox perspective. While death is an expression, the ultimate expression, of our brokenness and alienation, it has within it it, because of Christ, the seed of eternal life. It would not be good, I think, to live perpetually in a broken world. It would be wearying and deadly to us to experience over and over again the countless challenges and struggles of this world as it is. There is a kind of mercy in death, a mercy God provides so that we can rest and be taken from this world to be with Him until such time as God returns this world to what it was meant to be. In that sense I sometimes envy those who have gone to be with Christ. Their course is finished. Their tasks are completed. The pains of this present world have no power over them. They rest, and there are days when that rest in Christ can be quite appealing.

Still, my turn, for sure, will also come. I don’t plan to either hurry it along or needlessly attempt to delay its arrival. When it comes it comes and I hope that its presence will find me in faith and doing good things until the very last. Christ’s transforming death is also, for me, Christ’s transforming of life. My prayer is that because death has been transformed I can be transformed even now in anticipation and hope of that day when I, too, will rest in hope.

22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. Philippians 1

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4 thoughts on “I Sometimes Envy the Dead…”

  1. But those who have gone to be with Christ, have themselves witnessed war, poverty and everything else. Why wish for Death? When it comes, its comes. Until then, just live because you only live once.

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    1. I, at some times, grow weary and envy the fact that those who have died in Christ have finished their course and are at rest with Him. I plan on living and living well until my time comes, but there are times when my heart desires to be in the nearer presence of Christ. The Apostle, Paul, was himself torn at times, between staying and being faithful and going to be with Christ. Sometimes I feel the same way.

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      1. The desire to be with Christ is not a morbid thing. I will live my life and try to be as faithful as possible for as long as God allows. There are times, though, especially as I grow older where I am more at peace with death because I see the rest in Christ that it brings, a rest that on certain days I crave. Life can be challenging sometimes and as I get older I am less afraid of the end of this life because I see God’s blessing and grace, that which has been with me all this life, in that as well.

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