Saturday, November 15, 2008
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; (32) And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (33) They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? (34) Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. (35) And the servant abideth not in the house forever: but the Son abideth ever. (36) If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
I'm reading a book about death: The Grace in Dying. I found this book at Goodwill (a shop which sells used goods) a few days ago. It is written by a lady who works in a hospice and has been intimately involved in the final days of many hundreds of people. There is much in this book that I would not have written, there is surely much that I could not have written. There are chapters of the book devoted to the apparently deeply intricate theoretical psychological workings of the mind, etc. that I find impossible to follow and which are of questionable significance to me, but between those indigestible regions the author speaks of and gives examples of the almost universal shedding away, in the last weeks or days or hours, of all pretense and all distraction from the cares of the world.
For the most part the people whom she documents in this book are not apparently devoutly Spiritual Christian people, but I have not read where any of the people did not become deeply. . . greatly. . . gravely Spiritual in their last hours on earth. The author speaks of this transformation as a universal happening. She speaks of the power and peace gained through this transformation. The author's contention, if I might paraphrase her, is that as the clamoring distractions of this world are all shown to be deceitful lies, illusionary in their importance, as these facades fall away in the proximity of the door of death, then the terminally ill person is finally able to begin to hear the small still voice of God and it performs a mighty transformation upon the person. Everything else falls away and even before the person's last breath, they are alone with only God before them.
How well this is reflected in the words of Jesus:
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? (26) Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (34) Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
In our last moments there is no more thought of the cares of tomorrow. There is no more worry about our daily needs and our daily life. How much that we have held to be important, will be shown to have been a lie in our final moments? How much power would you have by being absolutely free from the cares of the world, if you were able to see and thereby believe just how trivial truly are the concerns and worries of our daily lives? How many things do I get anxious about which have no lasting meaning? The title of the book, "The Grace in Dying", talks of the growing grace given in the final hours before death. The author speaks of a very much accelerated process, taking place visibly before her eyes. In the Christian, I believe that we necessarily do go through this very process, but as our not being under the hugely powerful motivating energy of standing directly before the doors of death, the process is a gradual (in my case anyway), a slowly continuing one requiring long years and decades.
I desire this power, this grace in my life more immediately. What prevents me? The author speaks of how we lie to ourselves, by paying lip service to our mortality, but not really believing in our hearts that it will happen to us. Until forced by dire prognosis, we always believe we have a few more years, when no one is any more than a heartbeat away from the truth of life. Death is not an exception, death is not a surprise, it is not an unusual outcome, as another said it, It is not an outrage committed upon us. Through this book, I come to much more clearly see, that it is the natural culmination and completion of our earthly life.
The author speaks of those dying of cancer or AIDS as being the lucky ones. How many times in the past have I voiced the desire to die quietly in my sleep? In ways that surely might be easier, but again according to this author, this lady who has been intimately involved with the passage of hundreds of people, the final hours of life are the most precious and power filled of all the hours of life and while almost universally feared they are not to be despised. . .
Can I therefore, not to become morbid or depressed or to be continually in despair, but can I attempt to keep my mortality vividly in focus before my eyes? Can I in a deeply spiritual way, sincerely live each moment as my last, and thereby find this power and ultimate freedom before its being forced upon me by the failure of my body? Not everyone is given, what I now see to be as, the gift of time to prepare. Not every one is given a time by God to examine and cast away the lies of life. To many, finding themselves suddenly standing before God, with no warning, with no time to prepare their hearts, will come as a very rude shock, an extremely unpleasant surprise. Therefore not knowing my future, but knowing the power that this realization affords, what prevents me from accelerating this Christian process of grace and learning this lesson and profiting from it today. . .
I love you my God. . .
Thank you my Lord. . .