Holy Saturday. 12:30pm. Platte River State Park. Had a few thoughts on my trail run just now.
Been listening to the latest Foo Fighters album (Wasting Light) a lot lately…
The last few lines of the album’s last track go like this:
“I’m on my knees. I’m praying for a sign. Forever. Whenever. I never want to die. I never want to die. I’m on my knees. I never want to die. Forever. Whenever.”
While running barefoot on the moist dirt trails along the Platte just now, those lyrics kept running through my head over and over. I couldn’t get them out of my mind. That one line especially kept sticking out, when he screams, “I never want to die” repeatedly.
In that song, Dave Grohl sings that part so intensely that you can feel it; you can feel that he really doesn’t want to experience death; for whatever reason, he never wants his life on earth to end. He doesn’t want to die.
All I could think about while running was that I’m in the same boat; I really do not want to die. I hate the thought of it. In fact, it makes me sick just thinking about it.
There’s something about being human that causes the idea of death to seem so reprehensible. So wrong. So ‘not meant to be that way.’ And as a result, we fear it. We prolong it. We choose not to think about it. Somehow we instinctively know that we were not made for it. We weren’t created to die. Like a fish on land, it isn’t what we were made for.
Perhaps that’s why I cling so hard to the Christian faith. There are two aspects of it that comfort and reassure me (to some degree) when I think of death:
First, I’m comforted by the fact that whatever it means to experience death, God in Christ experienced it. There is so much about death that is unknown, and so much that I don’t understand, which is why perhaps it terrifies us so much; we fear the unknown. But still, whatever it means to die, I believe Jesus did it. He took on the entirety of the human condition, which includes mortality, and he truly experienced it. In Getsemane, he prayed in anguish about how he didn’t want to die and you can tell that he experiences that same human repulsion towards death that we all feel. “Father, take this cup from me!” he pleaded. I could just hear him, in fact, kneeling in that garden and saying those same Foo Fighters’ lyrics to God repeatedly: “I never want to die. I never want to die…” So, Jesus himself actually experienced death; he can relate to and understand my fears of it; and this somehow brings me comfort.
Secondly, I’m comforted by the fact that the Bible says we will not “taste death.” I don’t really understand what that means, but it still feels good. How will that happen exactly? How will I not taste death? I don’t know. Will my death appear to everyone else as a death, but to me it will seem like something else; I won’t taste it? Will I just transition to another realm perhaps? Or will I be like Saint Stephen who was stoned and murdered, but while he was dying could only see Jesus in the heavens at the right hand of God? Will that be death for me? Will I just see Jesus all of a sudden and not think about the actual dying? Or perhaps will my death simply feel like a nap; like when I’m going to sleep at night? And then the next thing I know I’ll be raised from the dead and it will just feel like waking up in the morning? Is that how I will not taste death? I don’t know… But I have faith that I won’t taste death, whatever that means. I can’t explain it; it’s a total mystery; but it still feels good. And so I believe it. It’s my hope.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that Jesus is the only reason I can function in life, while still knowing that death awaits me one day. It’s because I believe that he actually defeated death, conquered the grave, and then decided to share that victory with me and many others. Again I can’t explain it; and I don’t really like thinking about it, but at the same time, it brings me enough comfort and peace to go through life with joy, without being depressed about the fact that I will die one day.
I’ve heard Brian Zahnd say that eternal life is “immortality in the kingdom of God.” I really like that. I’m reminded of when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden and how death was the result of it. Mortality was the fruit of the Fall. God said, “When you eat of this tree, you will surely die.” Death happened when they sinned. It was not God’s original intention. But the Good News that I have been told is that as a result of Jesus, we are no longer mortal and so death, therefore, will no longer have the final say. We will actually get to live forever.
In the last lines of that Foo Fighters’ song, “Walk,” Dave Grohl really sums up a major part of the human experience: We don’t want to die. More than anything, we desperately don’t want to die. And so, this Easter weekend, I’m happy because I believe I don’t have to anymore.