Elisabeth and I are reading Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir, by Carolyn Weber, the story of a young agnostic woman and her surprising encounter with Christ at Oxford. Ms. Weber is a delightful writer, and this evening as I read aloud, there were a couple of passages that I almost couldn’t get through, they moved me so much.
My reaction is perhaps due to something else I read this morning, so I don’t know if it will have the same effect on you, but to set the scene, in this narrative, she is telling about a lavish Christmas dinner party she is invited to at the University, and the conversation that ensues. The speaker, seated near her, is an eminent heart surgeon…
“But to cut to the chase,” Dr. Inchbald stated, no doubt seeing the same reactions I saw as he glanced around the table, “when I see death, I know it is wrong.”
“Obviously.” Dr. Rieland snickered.
“But really, really wrong. In-my-gut wrong,” Dr. Inchbald almost pleaded. “It was not meant to be. It was not meant for us. We were not built for it. Everything in my body, at a cellular level, let alone a metaphysical one, twists against it. Not just my death, but the death of every living thing.”
The politician’s wife next to me sniffed. “Yes,” she said. “I had a beloved Shih Tzu who escaped from my purse and got struck by a car. I held her broken body as she breathed her last, looking at me with bewildered adoration the entire time. I was heartbroken. When I think about it, it felt so wrong.”
We all sat there in silence, serious or otherwise, but unified, thinking of dead pets, birds fallen from their nests, whales washed ashore. Of unborn babies, abducted children, hospices and the elderly. Of loved ones wasting away, suffering, shattering against a windshield, bleeding from a wound. Of aging. Growing weak. Losing one’s mind. Of ourselves.
Buried. In the dark. Devoured by insects. Turned to dust. Burned. Cremated. Turned to ashes. Was this really all there was, forever? That we were lost to ourselves and to each other forever?
As I said, perhaps this passage struck me so much because of what I had meditated on this morning in 2 Timothy, chapter 1, verse 10…
“…our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (ESV)
Don’t let anyone fool you. Death is not natural. Death is not something we should ever get used to. It wasn’t meant to be. No way. There is a reason death feels wrong.
But as believers, we have a Savior who has abolished death. ABOLISH is a wonderful word when it comes to the grave, is it not? Not so wonderful when used with fun, or food, or a host of other things we love. But I am so, so very glad that Jesus Christ has done away…with death.