Not behind you or to the side of you... not in an intimate chapel with creaky seats and altars punctuated by stiff, cultivated flower arrangements that suffocate the air... but smack-dab in front of you: every day, a funeral is taking place.
Don’t ignore it simply because you saw no announcements in the obituaries, witnessed no mourners sharing fake platitudes after glowing epitaphs from the deceased’s family. It’s every bit as real as a funeral followed by a consort of somber drivers tailgating to a graveside service in a grassy, tombstone-dotted cemetery or on a private hillside. The deceased, “resting” in an elaborate wooden coffin - one that would probably make 3 or 4 mortgage payments or feed a family of 5 for 6 months - is stretched out in their mortician-embalmed body shielded by a black limo’s tinted windows. Soon, the undertakers and the chosen pallbearers will emerge and with quasi-military precision, walk the deceased to their “final resting place” in the ground, or, if cremation was chosen, in a crypt.
The drably dressed stand for the final solemnities - usually delivered by some “person of the cloth.” This ritual is followed by a few select flowers placed gently over the dead's box, consigned by ceremonious shovels of dirt spilt onto the casket’s excavated gravesite.
The entire occasion is one lived out in shadows where people speak in hushed tones and try to forget all the times they were hurt or offended by the dead, and yet were too afraid to confront them on the earthly journey where wholeness, healing, and hope might have resulted.
Some of the mourners linger a short while. Others gather for potlucks and shared experiences about the deceased - mostly lies or at least exaggerations, but not all. Some get drunk. Others go home and rejoice that the dead are, well... dead, and no longer a present in-your-face disturbance to their daily lives.
This is not the funeral described in a few small pockets of the Bible, however. These sections speak of another type of funeral; another type of death: a death where one dies to him/herself. Daily. This death is no once-in-a-lifetime (pun intended) event. This is a crushed but not destroyed, perplexed but not abandoned s.e.r.i.e.s. of events. (I hear your "hip, hip, hooray" reverberations.)
These mini-deaths celebrate passing away of the old and something new, fresh, better, springing forth. These deaths hold out and hold onto h.o.p.e. – an active, longed for, persevering hope for a resurrection. Otherwise, we might as well do the "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die" deal.
This death rejoices. It’s not supposed to be gloom and doom from which there is no escape. This is a death of dying to all the things we lust after; not things we need, but things we want: Blue-Ray DVD players, the latest Wii game, Kindles, iPads, power tools, trips to an obscure Pacific island where, if you’re a girly-girl, you might fantasize yourself decked out in Manolo Blahnik’s or Louboutin shoes and a flirty Dolce & Gabbana day dress when your budget screams Kohls or WalMart. It's not all about "stuff" of course, stuff is merely a symptom. It could be jealousy over someone with a bigger 501K, greater popularity, or angst over someone who continually rubs you the wrong way and you repeatedly employ that 7x70 forgiveness formula.
This is the death of f.l.e.s.h.
“Flesh” for the uninitiated, is what the Bible references as the “old man” - the part of us that is tied to the temporal instead of longing for the unseen riches promised by a loving Creator in a world beyond this one we’re in (the one, in case you haven’t noticed, that is decaying at a pretty rapid rate these days).
"Why?" you might find yourself asking, would anyone choose to give up (die to) such delicious things hyped not merely as worthwhile and useful, but “must have” glitzy, magnetic temptations from from every storefront, every Internet page, every aspect of media imprinting our minds. (We deserve them, don't we?)
Far as I know, TIME® Magazine never chose as their “Person of the Year” the one who died most often to his/her flesh. No; TIME® (and other post-modern culture/agenda-driven influencers) have different standards. And like it or not, we’ve all been taunted by them… lured by them… succumbed to them… had our lives ruled by them. But, let me assure you, these standards are not listed in the pages of Torah or the New Testament. If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself.
Why would anyone, let alone G.O.D. ask that we die to self-indulgent passions and desires and be alive to something purportedly better. What could be better than the “latest and greatest” ________ (you fill in the blanks).
And why would we go along with such a ridiculous concept of being dissolved by death, but enlivened in faith to hope and the sure promise of a glorious outcome you've never glimpsed at on a 30" commercial let alone seen in "real" life. It is rare for the dead to come back and give us a report. Even if they did; we’d probably not believe them considering we read of visions and revelations people have had; yet our lives change little because of them.
Are we all excited in the morning and when we get out of bed, do we say, “Oh goody… today I get to die to my flesh?” Hardly. In contrast, we turn on our radios or televisions and hear about some little trinket advertised (and oh, did I mention, it’s “on sale” ), and we’ve been wanting one of those for, gee we can’t remember how long… .
When we’re making a stab at this “dying thing” and we seriously think our head is in the game and then the bottom sorta falls out of our lives, we wonder why we don’t thrill to being dead, yet alive.
It’s a crazy, mixed up, largely mysterious assignment. Ask anyone who’s tried it.
At first, big trials (the ones that heat up quickly and fade slowly), are usually cushioned by grace and heavy doses of mercy. People with skin on (not just the invisible God) – actually show up – come alongside and help you walk through the beginning stages of a crisis. Some stay longer than others, but eventually, it’s mostly you and God, baby.
That might not shake you, but for most of us mortals, I'll bet there will be some questions and flailing of hands heavenward. Some of us will dig into our Bibles for inspiration and courage. Some, as King David did when he felt down and out, will attempt to unearth the redemptive in the midst of our difficulty. Some days, we will enjoy success. We will find an anointed passage of scripture serving as healing balm and our souls will shout out: “Blessed be the Lord God Almighty… let everything that is within me, praise His name.” Other days, we might sob and groan l.o.u.d.l.y. with "what is going on here... will this ever stop?" whimpers. Buckets of tears may fall down our cheeks as we plead for God to “show up” and make himself real. Sometimes he will. Other times he will be quiet. He’s not hiding, but we may imagine that he is.
These are the times when fiery darts and heavy trials would like to consume us. These trials don’t woo us to our special reading nook next to a comfy fire on a misty winter’s day. These are times when the trial is more bonfire-ish and out of control. These are the times where we reach for a cell phone to call 911 and oops… no cell phone and/or we’re 100 miles from the nearest fire station. These are the times when we need help from the only one who can walk through the fire with us - the one Daniel and his friends hung out with in a lions den, lo those many years ago.
These are the trials that build trust.
Be assured, if you haven’t already enjoyed the experience, there is a trial... a fire... that will come into your life. It may be an illness, you could be disfigured or have lost functionality, suffered from a a fractured relationship, lost a job, be lamenting the death of a loved one, endured a shockingly devastating loss, or some other trauma; but it really doesn’t matter what it is… what matters is how you look at it... how you navigate through it.
Couple suggestions for when you're in the trial: Don't wear black. Dress up. Color is good. Don't envision yourself in a bleak casket locked away for people to view your dower face. Don't look for mourners; most of them are going through their own trial. Don't hold that "pity party" you'd like to host (no one wants to come); and don't drink, eat, or shop yourself into oblivion. Gird up. Steel yourself. This is a long race not a sprint. You're going to be doing this 'til the "tent" that houses your soul, literally "gives up the ghost" and you die-die; like for realz. Get it? This is not pie in the sky, this is reality. Check.
Let me encourage you fellow sojourner: let your trial usher in some change... let it burn out the desires for the things of this world... let it humble and reshape you.
Sometimes the fire will be like chalky coals - the kind where you toast marshmallows around a camp fire, make S'mores, and sing “Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya.” Other times, it will be a raging fire and you won’t be singing “kumbaya” (come by here), but “get me outta here." Whatever it looks like... feels like... be real, authentic, honest with yourself and (if necessary and profitable), with others. We all need some heavy does of spiritual reality. Not all of us can hide out in lah-lah land. Some of us still dig around in trenches. And guess what? It's okay. Jesus is down with it. Really; he is.
Each one of us in this life has a “cross to bear.” I won’t kid you; it’s not the same cross Jesus bore... but it has many similarities. Might as well get used to it. Embrace it. It’s gonna happen, even if you don’t/won’t surrender rejoicing in hope, although for a little while, you are distressed.
Trials come. Trials go. Through all of them, you will plumb for faith. You will discover if it’s shallow or deep. If it's deep, go deeper. If it's shallow, shore up. Going up is good too; painful, but good. If you need a course correction; do it. Forgive yourself and move on. Don't get stuck.
It’s up to each of us to yield to death – to the daily funeral – that our faith may be found more precious than gold which is tested by fire.
As I’m writing this, gold is pressing $2k an ounce in the major indexes. Even in worldly terms, that’s a fair amount. How much more precious is the gold you will produce under pressure of fire.
May your faith be tried, and tested, and may you be found genuine. The result of such a journey is promised. Maybe it means nothing to you, but this promise is praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Christ – the Saviour of the World. Eternity is on the horizon. We've all been invited to live with him, and what a day that will be.
Contained in this promise is joy inexpressible and full of glory for your soul, for you have died and are now alive. The funeral is over.
Grab hold of the promise now, while it's still "gettable" cuz trust me: a fiery trial may be the best offer you get today.
© Silent Mornings ~ Liza K. Christian
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Posted at http://silentmornings.blogspot.com/2011/05/funeral-is-taking-place.html