I’ve had more friends and family die this year than any other year of my life. An uncle fell dead jogging. A cousin took his own life. Several friends died from cancer. Another from kidney failure. Some of them were relatively young.
A few days after hearing about yet another friend’s death, I commented to my wife, Melanie, “It used to be that it was our parent’s friends who died, now we are at the place in life where it is our own.” We talked about how we’re beginning to know a considerable number of people in heaven these days.
There’s something about the death of friends that reminds us of our own mortality. It almost seems to move us a step closer to death ourselves. The death of friends remind us that this world isn’t a permanent place, but a temporary stopover where we won’t spend much time.
Do you ever think about your own death? How do you feel about that? One pastor asked another, “What would happen to you if you died today?” The other replied, “I’d spend eternity in eternal bliss, but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t bring up such depressing subjects.”
Physical death is really just a gateway. In a sense we don’t really die. We just move from one location to another. Christians possess the life of Jesus Christ and His life is eternal. We simply one day leave what C.S. Lewis called “The Shadow-Lands” and move into the direct light of his glory.
At the conclusion of Lewis’s story, The Last Battle, Aslan (the Christ figure) reminds the Pevensie children that, despite the pain of this world – the Shadow -Lands – the holidays have begun. “Your father and mother and all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands – dead. The term is over; the holidays have begun. The dream is ended; this is the morning.”… Author Barry Morrow wrote, “All of their life in this world and all their adventures in (the land of) Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One and the Great Story, which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
On the day a Christian leaves this human body, we will experience what Dallas Willard calls, “our birthday into God’s full world.” This world is transient, but one day we will move into a world that surpasses anything we can imagine. A child inside his mother’s womb might want to stay there if he knew he was about to be “ejected” from his mother’s body. Little could he know the wonder and beauty of what was awaiting him on the outside of his small world. Thus it is in the life of the Christian about to be born into God’s new world.
I read in the paper this morning that Johnny Cash died last night. He was 71 and had been sick for a while. John Ritter also fell dead yesterday from an undetected heart problem. He was only 54. One day it will be my obituary you read, or else I’ll read yours.
Whichever one of us goes first, let’s remember this fact – Christians don’t die. We just go home and start the next chapter of the Divine Love Story which will never end. Earth introduces the characters. Heaven is the heart of the story.