Dust

Dust

 

Last week I heard some sad news from my extended family. My cousin had gone out to Zimbabwe for her aunt’s funeral. While she was there, she was on a boating trip. She stood up at the wrong moment, fell over the side and hit her head on the propeller. She never recovered from the extensive brain damage, and a few days later her heart gave out. She was in her late twenties, recently married.

 

I was really shocked by the news. I had lost touch with her, and had only really known her as a child rather than as an adult. My memories of her are mainly of her giggling shyly with us at family get-togethers. She had a great sense of fun. As an adult, she cared deeply about her family, with whom she was very close, and she was a loyal and compassionate friend to many.

 

I felt saddened, mainly on behalf of my extended family rather than for myself. But most of all I felt shocked. We don’t expect these things to happen – not to people we know, not to us.

 

*********
 

I secretly believe I am immortal. Well, not immortal exactly, but in control of how and when I will die.

 

That may sound strange, as someone who is more aware than the average person of their frailty and weakness. I was explaining to a friend, ‘I think I’m going to die, but of M.E. or of cancer or heart disease which comes as a result of M.E. – and in the future. I expect to have warning of it.’ In other words, I would quite like to be in control of my death, at least a little bit. Death should only come to those who are old and full of days, and softly, as a release from pain of illness.

 

I don’t expect to die in an accident. That wouldn’t be ‘fair’, when I already have something that could one day potentially kill me. Neither does it seem right or fair that my cousin should die in her twenties, whilst on holiday, and just undergoing bereavement herself. I feel like somehow we should be immune from death under these circumstances – we should have a temporary reprieve. But death does not submit to our negotiations.

 

*******
 

In one sense it is good for me to feel like this, to be so resistant to death. Death is wrong.

 

Evolution, science, Buddhism would tell us that death is a natural process and not to be feared. The Bible calls it our last enemy. The reason that it feels so ‘unnatural’ is because it IS unnatural. We have eternity written in our hearts. Death came in through sin, it is not the way it was supposed to be.

 

On the other hand, it’s not good for me to feel invincible because it just isn’t true. Death is out of our control. I don’t like this fact.  I like to think I can guard the safety of my loved ones, that I can plan long-term. I like to think I am in control of my life, that I am made of strong, indestructible stuff; shiny, hard metal, or enduring wood.

 

I am not. I am dust.

 

“For [The Lord] knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.” Ps 103:14

 

The truth is that our bodies are fragile, and our lives are fleeting.

 

Every so often, it is good for me to remember that I am dust. I am not in control of my life, and I am not in control of my death. Only God knows how long I will be here for. God is the author of my story within the Big Story and only He knows my ending.

 

I need to entrust my life – and my death – into the hands of the one who numbers the hairs on my head and measures out my days on this earth. I need to trust the one who takes the dust and breathes life into it, who creates and redeems and recreates. I need to trust the one who knows that I am dust.

 

Over to you:

  • (I know this is a bit morbid but…) How helpful do you think it is to be aware of our own mortality? To what extent are you aware of yours?

Linking with Joy in this Journey for Life:Unmasked and Mary-Beth for WIP Wednesday

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40 Responses to Dust

  1. Donna 20th August, 2012 at 2:05 am #

    Your post is so interesting… and so are the comments!
    For me, the thought of dying isn’t a problem. A few years ago, a young mum I knew died of cancer, and I can remember thinking, in what we knew were the last weeks of her life, how hard it must be for her to get her head around the fact that this was the last spring of her life. That she would never get to see this season again – never get to see another winter, never get to have another Christmas. And when I think of that side of it, and the hole that my death would leave in my family, that is hard.
    But if I’m only thinking about me? I have to say I often feel a tinge of jealousy when I hear of Christians dying. I can’t WAIT to get to heaven! I fight myself every day, struggling between the flesh and the spirit, and grieving over the huge gap between the person I am acting as, and the person I know I truly am. I want to be whole. I want to be all that God made me to be, and to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be that before heaven.
    Watching documentaries on penguins can bring me to tears. Seeing how awkwardly they move on land, and how gracefully and easily they move in the water… and I think that must be what it’s like – the difference between earth and heaven. It’s hard, being here. Sin and death and pain and loss… it hurts. I believe the bible when it says that heaven is the opposite of that, that there is ‘fullness of joy’ and that I will be in the presence of my Father for ever! I think that we were made for heaven, and that is why it can feel awkward and not-quite-right here on earth.
    Thank you, yet again, for another thought-provoking post!

    • Tanya 22nd August, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      Wow. I’m really moved by your words: both by the attitude that you have that describes so clearly the frustration at being stuck in the ‘now and not yet’ and for that amazing illustration of heaven being like penguins in water. I find it so hard to think of heaven and imagine positively what it must be like – I found this really helpful, thank you.

  2. Nick 16th August, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    I want to go just when I’m about to finish a large chunk of chocolate cake, so that people can truly say, ‘he died doing something he loved’.
    But maybe that’s just me.
    I have quite an odd view of death, in some ways. I’m pretty relaxed about it for myself, but wouldn’t wish it on many other people. I blogged about the ‘going home’ aspect of it a while ago and in that sense, I suppose I’m looking forward to it. But the thought of dying ‘early’ fills me with dread on behalf of the people I love. I wonder how they’d do without me. But I suppose part of the challenge is to ensure people know that, when it comes to the crunch, they don’t need me – they need God.
    On a side issue, the thought of losing non-Christian friends is more worrying that losing Christian ones (sorry to all my Christian friends!).
    And as for the scariest loss of all, that’s for a blog post in itself πŸ˜‰

    • Tanya 17th August, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

      This comment read almost like a Groucho Marx quotation! ‘Wouldn’t wish it on many other people’ – classic!

      There is a really helpful insight here, both for our death and others – that we need God, above all. We entrust ourselves into the hands of God, but we also entrust those we love to be looked after by God, whatever happens. That’s really helpful – thanks, Nick.

  3. Heather 16th August, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    I’ve always had issues with death, but not mine. I fear my husband and my son dying. Sometimes I listen to music and say, “I will play that at your funeral.” He cuts to my greatest fear. Of course, I don’t think of my death b/c I’m so sure I will die peacefully in my sleep before I lose anyone I love. I’m going to hold onto denial for this one, safe and comfy.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Tanya 17th August, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

      Hi Heather – lovely to see you. I am SO with you on the denial thing. And also with the fear of my husband dying. That petrifies me.

      It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this – thanks for stopping by. πŸ™‚

  4. James Cooper 16th August, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    As ever Tanya, you make me think! I guess that I’m ‘fortunate’ to be around now. I was born prem at 3lb 13oz and then got septicaemia as a baby (meningitis jab went wrong…) and lived on anti-biotics the first few weeks of my life.

    I wonder if we do try to push death away because, in our inmost being, we know it’s wrong. However, that’s also a weapon the enemy can use (you don’t want to think about death…) to stop us thinking of the consequences of death without knowing the enteral life giver.

    On a lighter note, my dad is a bit of a procrastinator and often says (after fiddling away at something) “I really didn’t intend to do this” – he now wants that on his headstone!!!

    • Tanya 17th August, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

      Wow – really glad that you made it into the world after such a tricky start in life!

      It’s interesting to bring in the element of Satan stopping us thinking about the consequences of death – I hadn’t really considered that angle. Thank you!

      • James Cooper 18th August, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

        I was thinking more about last night. It occurred to me that this is the 2nd thing that Satan is recorded as saying in the Bible:

        β€œYou won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. (Genesis 3:4 NLT)

        Interesting!

        • Tanya 22nd August, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

          I LOVE this observation! So helpful! Great spot – thanks for sharing it.

  5. Melanie 16th August, 2012 at 2:38 am #

    Oh my there is so much in this post that impacts me.
    “we should have a temporary reprieve. But death does not submit to our negotiations.”
    I have felt that for myself, for friends…a deep shouting “no this is too much. i/they have had their turn.”

    My dad passed away very suddenly, very unexpectedly in his 50s. He was such an alive, vibrant person- that even now it can catch me off guard when I think of his death.
    You are right on saying “death is wrong. it is un-natural” Amen.
    Thank you for your words.

    • Tanya 16th August, 2012 at 10:27 am #

      Lovely to see you, Melanie!

      I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad. Dad’s should definitely be immortal, I feel. My Dad is such a rock in my life I would feel very lost if he died. (Or rather, when he dies – how is it that I am in denial, even now?) It would catch me off-guard too to think about it.

      Thank you so much for sharing today – I really appreciate you stopping by.

  6. Claire Bone (@Bone_Claire) 16th August, 2012 at 1:39 am #

    I tend to avoid thinking about death. I have no control over it and because of that I am very fearful about this. I try my best to protect my family and myself from harm, but deep down I know that I cannot. God is in control. He knows the number of days we have on earth. My dad died young – 45 – in a plane crash that was a freak accident. No one saw it coming and it really made me think about our mortality. Our oldest child was then two months old. I had to really embrace the fact that I have no control and let God be God lest I let fear take over. There are days when I wake up and am crippled by fear that something might happen to someone I love but I have to take a deep breath and choose not to be fearful, but trust God.

    • Tanya 16th August, 2012 at 10:24 am #

      Thank you so much for your honesty. I don’t think you are alone in having a real fear of death – particularly those who have experienced the death of those close to them at a young age. These things really impact us. I think you have had to emotionally realise what a lot of us pay lip service to – that we are not in control. ‘Let God be God’ – yes – this is the challenge; that is the real challenge.

      Thank you so much for your comment.

  7. Lori 16th August, 2012 at 12:38 am #

    I interviewed Anne Graham Lotz last week and asked her if she had 5 minutes to tell every believer something, what would she say? She answered, “Time is very short, and we’re living at the end of human history. It’s a privilege to be living in this generation, and with that privilege comes responsibility. So if the world were to end today, if Jesus was to come back this afternoon, what would you wish you had done? I want to have as few regrets as possible on the day I meet Jesus.”

    Amen.

    So glad I visited from Be Not Weary (www.lorihatcher.com)

    • Tanya 16th August, 2012 at 10:22 am #

      First – how cool that you got to interview Anne Graham Lotz!
      Second – yes – it really does focus the mind, to remember that we are not here for ever. It is also good for me to remember that I may not die – Jesus may return! So easy to forget! Thanks for coming by here today.

  8. Jo 15th August, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    You have a gift for writing about difficult issues and also in responding to each person who has commented on the post.
    When I die, I so want to be surrounded by my family & for everyone to be generally blessed in the process, mainly because that is the antithesis of how it was when mum died. The topic of death was the elephant in the room and it upset me that my parents not ‘doing’ emotions meant that we missed sharing so much, even though there was time to do so. Philip Gould earlier this year had the opportunity to share openly the process of dying with his family & in a short film – though not a christian, his openness was so striking.
    My husband is a chaplain & has the privilege of praying for & with those who are ill, close to death and for their families on a daily basis. It certainly makes for some interesting conversations with non-christian friends & family on the ‘dealing with death’ topic
    Bless you Tanya

    • Tanya 16th August, 2012 at 10:16 am #

      Thank you for your lovely words, Jo – it is so nice to be told I have a gift πŸ™‚

      It is so interesting that we don’t talk about death, and that we don’t know what to do with it. I was really wary of posting this, and have been so surprised at the positive reception and the honesty in the comments. I think too often it is the ‘elephant in the room’, and we don’t know what to do with it. I am not sure that I really know what to do with the whole topic of death. My husband is a vicar, so has his share of praying with the dying, but not to the extent that your husband does. That really is a special ministry – so importnat, and not an easy calling! I suspect that his constant confrontation with death is a lot healthier than much of our society’s constant avoidance of death.

      Thanks so much for sharing – and nice to get to know you a bit better too. xx

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