TEACH ME HOW TO DIE

2010 has been one of my most challenging years yet. It’s not that I think any year will be easier than the other, I just usually have some hope of a break from the snares I still struggle with.  If only I could spray some kind of teflon on my legs so when the snares come back to grab me, they would slide right off when they come a snaring.

I often feel like Gandalf in that scene in Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring, where Gandalf is fighting the Balrog and after the Balrog is falling into the depths, seemingly defeated, he reaches up and snatches Gandalf by the legs and pulls him into the abyss.

Gandalf had the right idea.  He took a stand.  He fought.  He slammed his staff down and declared, “You. Cannot. Pass!” I’ve done this myself. I’ve declared myself free by the power of the Holy Spirit that lives in me.  I walk away. I move on. Then, out of nowhere, I’m blindsighted, I’m gasping for my life, and I’m falling into the abyss again, and I want to avoid the abyss at all costs.

I think my problem is I forget that I can fight while I’m in the abyss and after the snare is defeated for good, I will emerge stronger than before.  Then I remember that to become Gandalf the White, Gandalf the Grey had to die in the abyss and dying is not the desired result of any activity to a human being.

I suppose for most how we deal with death and dying is an internal struggle between leaving what we love and know vs leaving it all behind for the mystery of eternal life.  We’ve heard the reports, read the books, and some of us have even had those brief moments where we were dying and had that glimpse of what is to come.  From what we’ve been told, heaven and eternal life is by far a better place and circumstance than the one we dwell in now.  

Most people, even Christians, don’t seem to like the thought of dying, at least not before what they perceive to be their appointed time.  Though it’s believed there is life to come, there is fear in letting go of this life.  I admire those who face this struggle with courage and the spirit to fight on for life and living, who don’t give up, who believe there’s more life to live for now.  I also have watched in grief and wonder as the life of a fighter ends as I understand it.  Death will always seem unfair to a human mind, no matter what we believe.  If we are the one left behind, especially if we begged God for a miracle, we might spend the rest of our lives trying to make that death make sense, and it never will.

People (including me) will cling to the only miracle that makes sense in light of the power of a merciful and kind God – protection, healing, a complete reversal of circumstance.  Those are usually the only miracles our brains usually register – miracles on our terms.  Miracles of healing and protection, all sorts of miracles happen all the time, even when some dare to label them coincidences or accidents.  I’ve seen miraculous healings. I believe in miraculous healings.

My brother believed the miracle of healing for him lay beyond what the human mind could conceive, a miracle on God’s terms, and that miracle separated us, but not forever.  A miracle delivered outside the realm of our hope or expectation doesn’t mean God doesn’t perform miracles on our behalf, or that a miracle hasn’t occurred.  Despite all my prayers for the miracle of healing that keeps people I love with me, more often than not, they’ve still left this life as we know it.  The only thing that helps me work that out is that I have to believe that what they’ve gained is more important than what I’ve lost.

What I learned from my miracle journey is:

A miracle isn’t a miracle because we get the result we wanted.  A miracle is miraculous because God is in the middle of it, the author of it, regardless of the outcome.

I have not gotten the miracle in my spiritual life as I would liked to have experienced it this year.  God’s still here, though, working out the miracle in his terms.  I shall not pass.  I have to die to self, and then the hold of the grip of sin and struggle and insanity will be broken. Forever.

I know that Gandalf’s death in the abyss was symbolic of dying to self. To be greater, he had to die and be reborn. Made new. This process cost him everything but what he gained in return made all that he’d lost a distant memory.

I have to ask God to teach me how to die (again) so that I might live the life I was meant to live. I can’t continue in this cycle of expecting to be delivered over and over again from the same snares.  While I believe this is the ultimate plan, for Christ did die in my place and he does not need my help, as long as the snares keep grabbing me, I believe I’m responsible for taking care of some business myself.  Otherwise, I would never have been introduced to the armor of God if battle wasn’t on the agenda.

So Lord, teach me how to die so that I can rise above the snares and be the beacon of light I have always been meant to be.  Help me not to despair and give up.  Let hope be my guide.

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