Written by C. T. Giles
Nothing is so commonplace and out-of-place as Death and dying. Our guts scream out against the irrationality and injustice of it. We have seen it everywhere. We know it will happen to everyone. Yet we are undone by it. Every. Single. Time. Our souls refuse to ascent to the truth of it, heedless of the one most universal and fundamental fact of existence – everything dies.
All that we can do is watch while the saga unfolds as our own death looms like a guillotine suspended somewhere in the sky over our heads. We walk about full knowing that the cordage to that cleaver may very well break loose at any moment. We are powerless to stop its plummet. We cannot even slow its descent. When it’s time, it’s time, be it grimace or grin beneath the blow.
Too often, it seems to me, faith is little better than gritted teeth and clenched fists; it is white-knuckled desperation grasping after things we could never hold in the first place; it is the arthritis in the soul at the straining of the spirit; it is a tonic that’s chronic.
Of course, the Christian Way would have us lean into the virtues and practices of hope. We are supposed to cast our cares upon Him and all the rest. But let’s be honest. Sometimes, all we have is all that’s grim.
Love? Those we love the most will desecrate the interior places we hold most dear. Whether in malice or ignorance, the result is the same: the shared space that had once been sacrosanct and inviolable has become nothing more than a forgotten gravesite with a crumbling headstone. Our friends will abandon us at the first sign of the pettiest peril. Those that we had once saved from themselves will take their leave of our need as they go off to find themselves all over again. At some point, love becomes the loneliest place a body could ever inhabit.
Call me melodramatic or nihilistic. Then read the Passion accounts again. Our Lord lived through all of the above without mitigation, without relief.
Our suffering is stapled to us at birth and guaranteed for life. We are haunted by a ghost with teeth that hovers at the very nape of our neck. As it is, I myself have never prayed in blood, so, clearly, I have not suffered so badly just yet. Maybe those days are around the corner, too.
These are the thoughts restless within me at this midpoint of Lent. We die. Life is just time-released misery perforated by joy’s swift retreats, and it tears quite easily. Death is the only thing we really know, after all.
Now this is the part where I am supposed to turn a fancy Christological play on words to put us all back safely aboard the Good Ship Lollipop. Not today. Today I’m inundated with Solomon’s vanities and Jeremiah’s laments.
Today I remember where we are headed if we continue in this Way. We are on the Path to splinters grinding into our already flailed and splayed backsides, trudging beneath the agonizing weight of our own death dealing device that we shoulder before the taunts of our enemies in the wake of the absence of our friends. At the end of that road, at the top of that hill, death is a certainty. Resurrection is only a hope – an anemic, starving, frail waif of a thing barely clinging to the timber that we drag behind ourselves.
My God… my God… why have You forsaken me..?
White knuckles. Ground Teeth. Faith-beaten stump of a face turned up for more.
To God be the glory.