...because of the tender mercy of God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from
on high to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
If you were to observe humanity from above, you'd see a bunch of different people scurrying in different directions. There would be suburban moms and child soldiers in Africa. You would see birthdays and funerals. Each person looks different, their height and skin tone and dialect hardwired into them by their relatives. Living in the mosh pit as we do, it might seem a bit random. It might seem as if our lives are like shrapnel from a grenade, exploding in different directions. But we are marching in sync. We march in sync toward an unavoidable destination: death. It is important that we do not forget our mortality—our common destination. Matthew McCullough writes in his book Remember Death:
"Embracing death-awareness is how we strip away a heart-breaking attachment to the things of this world."
What gives a man hope on his deathbed? Money? Sex? Fame? None of the world's standards are enough for a person leaving the world. It is all vanity. Hope feeds on continuation. Have you noticed that? We despair when we lose something and it isn't coming back. First loves end in first heartbreaks, and anyone who has experienced this ache can remember the feeling of its permanence. In the midst of heartache, it feels like we'll always feel this way—we've lost a love forever. But hope is another story. Hope is a dirt path next to a road closure sign, the sure and certain knowledge that it isn't over. This is the hope found in Jesus Christ. I know death is inevitable, and my steps will lead there. Please do not tell me I will be reincarnated as a grasshopper. Please do not tell me I have to earn my way to heaven. Please do not tell me there are many gods and I must please them all. Please do not tell me I am evolved from pond scum. Please do not tell me that God is "the universe" or my consciousness. Do not tell me any of this as I march in the funeral procession of life. I know how this thing ends. I want to have enough hope that when my eyelids slam shut one final time on this earth that they will open to a world I have only imagined and longed for. Only then can my march be happy and meaningful. On my march, I want to know that God sees my fear. I want to know that he does not get news of my life secondhand from his minions, but rather that he, like my Dad has always done, shows up to my games. I want to know that God forgives me for my ever present selfishness and my dark thoughts. Maybe it's asking a bit much, but I also want to know that God wore the same skin and nerves and bones as me, and that he knows what it feels like to be human. And someday as I die, I want to know that my continuation is based on the will of my Creator and not in my ideas or my performance. Scripture whispers the hope of continuation to our dying ears. We do not march to the edge of a cliff, whereby we fall in a heap. Death is a comma, not a period. The hope found in Christ is a hope which redeems our lives right now by washing us in the grace and mercy of God's complete acceptance, and this hope continues forever. Our future purchased on the cross and guaranteed by his resurrection. His glory is a guide to our feet into the way of peace. This is the song I will march to. WOULD YOU PRAY THIS PRAYER WITH ME? Lord, I know you conquered death. I know Jesus tasted death once, and then he overcame it. I know my eternal inheritance was bought by this victory. God, remind me of this hope. Light my path by it. Help me to live a meaningful, hope-filled life on earth and give me the assurance of your promise of eternal life. In Jesus' name, amen.