When Fall finally arrives in Northern California, we can’t compete with the autumn displays of the northeastern states, but there are still occasional bursts of rich color scattered in the hills and valleys where I live.
Walking along the streets of my town, smiling at each crimson leaf, I enjoy all this loveliness and sometimes think about the cycle of death which creates it.
All of the material world is under the law of entropy: a gradual decline into disorder and death. Even though we try to ignore it, all living things eventually die. It is the natural order of our world. Without the annual cycle of death, we would be denied the glory of autumn we so enjoy. There is beauty in the dying of the leaves before they release their hold on life.
Taking advantage of assisted suicide laws, many people with incurable diseases seek to avoid the inevitable pain and ugliness these diseases can cause before the release of death. This desire is understandable. If the material world were all there is, it would be the logical choice.
All material things pass away, but we are not simply our physical bodies. Each of us has a spiritual component, our immortal soul. When we take our dying out of God’s hands we are denying Him the opportunity of making of our final days a more beautiful thing.
From the moment of birth, our physical body is in the business of dying, while the spirit can continue to mature and expand eternally. Knowing this truth can inspire us to spend our lives on Earth dying beautifully.
Like the leaves of autumn, we can add vibrant color to the lives of those around us, and bring blessings where we happen to fall.
A hospital chaplain who sat beside many death beds once told me of the great difference he saw between the death experience of non-believers and that of believers; people convinced the material world was all there is tended to die in fear, sadness, or anger, while those looking ahead to the next great adventure often became “beautiful” in their last moments, breathing their last with sweet expressions of peace and joy.
As Christians, we should not wait for those final moments, but should begin to show the beauty in our dying from the day we are born into the family of God.
24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
John 5:24 (NIV)