8 April 2009

Facing the inevitable

When I was young, I thought of death as a risk associated with doing certain things. By avoiding those activities - smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, speeding, jumping from tall buildings - I could avoid death. My confidence was bolstered by having survived a handful of potentially fatal illnesses and accidents. I believed in the resurrection of the dead, but it was like an insurance policy, nice to know it was there just in case. It didn't figure much in my day-to-day thinking and planning.

Now that I'm older I realise that no matter what I do, or avoid doing, death is inevitable. Taking risks might hasten it's arrival, but nothing I can do will postpone it indefinitely. Already I'm at that stage in life where people my own age are dying from 'wear and tear' illnesses. Given my genes and my current state of health, I could live another thirty or forty years, but that's less years than I've lived already, and each year is shorter than the last.

At first I found the inevitability of death rather depressing. I felt as if time was running out to do all the things I wanted to do. At the same time, I wondered what was the use of starting any sort of long-term project if I might be dead before I finished it. (Apparently such thoughts are common in people of my age.)

But now that I've grown used to the idea of death's inevitability, I'm beginning to find it quite liberating. I've learned that there are worse things than dying. The sense of time running out is sometimes a motivation to get on with life, but I've also learned that eternity is long enough to do most things. Christ's promise of resurrection is not so much an insurance policy against disaster as a passport ensuring safe travel on the journey.

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