I sat in with a few medical students studying Phil 3:1-21 yesterday. Revisiting this passage I was struck by how Paul's perspective is deeply undergirded by the Resurrection. He has his death and what comes after firmly in vision.
To know that there is a new and glorious life beyond the grave should completely change the way we live and die.
Whenever Joan and I go on trips, the anticipation of the day before just kills us. Boarding the plane or train is filled with euphoria. And we just can't wait to be wowed by the exotic-ness of the place we're about to visit. Perhaps that's how death and dying should be - if I were to go with my faculties fully intact, there would be pain in leaving loved ones behind for sure, but there must also be great anticipation and excitement of going to a new and glorious place. All my journeys in life this side of heaven lead up to this ultimate journey.
Philip Yancey, in 'More than Words', comments on John Donne's life and writings: 'for Donne, death was always the Great Enemy to be resisted, not a friend to be welcomed.. the turning point came as he began to view death not as the disease that permanently spoils life, but rather as the only cure to the disease of life. For sin had permanently stained all life, and only through death - Christ's death and our own - can we realise a cured, sinless state.'
Death is not the end, but only the beginning.
My life on earth is dwarfed by the implications of eternity with God. All that I think, do, and experience here is but a prelude to the great symphony to be played out beyond the final horizon.
Tomorrow I will take my parents to a cemetery in PD to tidy up the burial grounds of my grandparents and pay respects. It's a good Chinese tradition to uphold (minus any ancestor worship.) I will look upon the tombstones and contemplate the lineage I have come from, the lives my predecessors have carved out for my existence today.. but more, so much more. Those tombstones will remind me of the final journey that I will also make some day.
Will I resist it or will I, like Paul, 'press on toward the goal.. which God has called me heavenward in Christ', 'to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.'