Friday, June 22, 2012

Waiting for the end

Life seems to go in cycles. You go five years without seeing a person and then run into them twice in a week. Or, as has happened in our life, you go five years without attending a funeral, and then have to attend two in a matter of weeks.

I don't think there is any way to attend a funeral without contemplating your own eventual end. Because the truth is, we are all dying. Some just take a bit longer to get to it.

When you have kids, funerals also make it difficult to escape the discussion of what happens when we die. Especially when you have very curious and observant kids like mine tend to be. Especially the older one.

Facing death is one of the times I think I most appreciate my Christian beliefs.  Telling our seven year old, "Our friend (or grandparent) gets to live in heaven forever with Jesus, and he will have a brand new body and won't be sick or ever get hurt," is a lot easier to say than, "well, they are going to put him in a big box and cover him up with dirt."

Now, please don't get me wrong when I say this, but even if I didn't believe Christianity to be true, I think believing it would make life a lot easier....especially at the end of it.

Hear what I am saying;  I believe Christianity is true.

I believe it is a religion grounded in history as well as science. Over the past few decades, archeological digs have helped prove the accuracy of the Bible. Even many scientists now admit that "something" had to initiate the big bang. Of course growing up I believed in a Christian God because my parents did. Not only did they teach the gospel to me as parents, but my dad was also my pastor.  So I spent more time in church than I did anywhere else, including my own home.

During my childhood and teen years, I was incredibly self righteous and thought I had it all figured out. (Side note to apologize for all of you who grew up under my self righteous glare). Then I went to college. I attended a university bigger than my home town. A university with all kinds of different people from different backgrounds and different beliefs. And to my surprise, a lot of these people were really nice. Really moral. Really generous. And really smart.

How could it be that my religion was right, making all of theirs wrong?

Enter crisis of faith.

College was the first time that I really examined my faith on my own. The first time I looked at the Bible and didn't take what it said with blind faith, but questioned what I read. I talked to people of different faiths, and a lot of people who claimed not to have faith in anything. I compared, contrasted, and questioned. A lot. But for the first time, I didn't just ask my dad for the answers. I searched them out myself.

And at the end of my search, I came back to where I started; believing that Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, lived a perfect life and died for my sins so that I could have a  relationship with him that ultimately brings me from death into life. I discovered there was no way for me to earn this gift. In fact, my self righteous way of trying to keep all the rules (and judging those I thought weren't keeping them as well as I did) was exactly what Jesus died to save me from. His gift was free, and I could never earn it.  Only accept it.

But I digress.....

As I sat in the funeral this week, I couldn't help but think about my journey of self-discovery in college. I thought about all of the different religions and beliefs and wondered how I would feel viewing my friend's death through one of those lenses.

A lens like reincarnation where the afterlife depends on our behavior in this life.

A lens like atheism where the end of this life is simply the end.

And I realized, even if my search for what I believed ended differently, if I didn't believe that a relationship with Jesus resulted in eternal life, at a time like this, I would fake it.

Because otherwise I am not sure how you go on after watching a loved one die. I don't know how you face death if you don't have hope that there is something better than this life ahead of us. Something better for those who have gone on before us.

How does this man's wife of 46 years wake up every day with no hope that he is in a better place?  How does she go on without hope that she will see him again? Sure, she has kids and grand kids who love her, but without hope all she can believe is that someday those kids and grand kids will die too. And that will be the end.

I sat holding Richie's hand, thinking about my kids, my parents, my husband. Without the hope of something better I don't think I could go on in the face of their death.

Not without hope.

I know many people will disagree with this post. In fact, many people probably stopped reading a couple paragraphs in. That's okay. Like I said, I know there are some really amazing, moral, and smart people who don't share my belief system.

I just don't know how to hold on to those other beliefs in the face of death. Watching your spouse, your parent, or your child take their last breath, I think I would prefer to believe Christianity, even if it isn't true, than to believe that this life is all there is.

The pastor said something at the funeral that struck me. He said, "Boyd lived his entire life to prepare us for this day."

Not that we shouldn't be sad or that we won't miss him, but that we know without a doubt he finished well and he is living more fully now than he ever did on earth.

In the face of death, I choose hope. I don't know how to choose anything else. I want to live my life preparing everyone I leave behind for my death. I want them to miss me like crazy. And I want them to know they will see me again. And when they do, we will celebrate for eternity with no chance of migraines.

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