My husband’s grandfather died this past Easter week. Needless to say, between his death and remembering my Saviour dying on the cross, I was ensconced in images of death. I was surprised at how caught off-guard I was in my reactions to these deaths. After all, the death of my husband’s grandfather was hardly unexpected (he was 86 and in the end stages of cancer). And, certainly, commemorating Jesus’s crucifixion didn’t come out of left field—Easter comes around every year, and as a Christian, I know His life ends not in death, but in resurrection.
Still, I wasn’t prepared for how those images made their way to my 4 year old daughter. She peppered me with questions and commentary about death, dying and the dead—all of the sticky, messy nuances of death that I never really wanted to discuss with anyone, much less with her.
Will I still be your daughter if you die?
Do only old people die, Mama? Are you old, Mama?
Will you still love me if you’re in Heaven?
If I stop eating my vegetables, I’ll stay little forever, right? And I never have to grow old and die—right, Mama?
Why did Jesus get punished for the bad things I did? Couldn’t they punish him with a time-out or a spanking? Why did they have to punish him by making Him die?
The gravity of these questions saddened me. Dredging up answers for these questions overwhelmed me.
Don’t get me wrong—I readily accept that in this day and age, I have to talk to her about adult things like The Birds and the Bees, child molestation, body image issues and substance abuse.
But, unlike those things, death seems so unknown. So unyielding. So permanent.
More importantly, death means separation. In my daughter’s mind, separation one day from her mama. In my father-in-law’s mind, separation today from his daddy. In my Lord’s mind, separation on that Good Friday from His heavenly Father. Physical, emotional and spiritual separation.
I think this is why it was recorded in the Bible that Jesus had wept. Some people say He wept because Lazarus was dead. Others say He wept for the sadness experienced by others over Lazarus’s death. Scholars say He wept over the fact that death had become a daily part of human reality. There are even others who say He wept knowing that some people would never believe in the One, True, Living God and would never experience the fullness of life everlasting—that death for them truly did mean a permanent separation from God. Physical, emotional and spiritual separation.
I think He wept because of the overwhelming sadness of it all. That sin had even entered this world, causing His little children to slip through the cracks, and fall into a wretched abyss without recognizing, knowing, experiencing and receiving the life-giving, life-sustaining nature and character of God. Physical, emotional and spiritual separation.
I think He wept because this fallen world had forced Him to even talk about death, dying and the dead to His little children—all of the sticky, messy nuances of death that He never wanted to discuss with anyone when He conceived of all of creation.
I, too, wept as my daughter demanded answers to these difficult questions last week. I, too, wept because of the overwhelming sadness of it all.
I didn’t weep for me. I didn’t weep for my loved ones who know Jesus.
I wept because I was forced to even explain these sticky, messy nuances of death to my daughter. That these sticky, messy nuances meant that my daughter and I would have friends who will never recognize Christ. That we would have family who will never know His unconditional love and mercy. That we would have co-workers that will never experience freedom from pain, grief and bondage. That we would have neighbors who will never receive a way out from death.
That there will be people out there who will permanently live in physical, emotional and spiritual separation from God if I don’t speak up about these sticky, messy nuances of death.
Christians, speak up.
Speak up about death.
Speak up about the dying.
Speak up about the dead.
Speak up, so that the dead may rise. So that death has no sting. So that death has no victory. So that no one—no, not even one, would experience physical, emotional and spiritual separation from God.
Speak up so that living water freely pours out from His hands and His feet, onto the whole of humanity. So that life and healing overtake the sinful strongholds of this dark, twisted and dying world.
Christians, speak up.