Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote: "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die". Living is hard work---so too is dying. My own father is now in what appears to be a long, drawn out process of dying. He does not want to die. I don't want him to die. But death is one of the very few certainties of this life. No matter how hard we may hold on, resist, or even deny the inevitable, still death awaits us all. And yet, for the follower of Jesus, death is not the end. "O death where is thy sting, O grave where is thy victory?"
Jesus is the grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies. His sacrificial death makes possible life eternal. Real life, God's very life. Jesus invites me to come to Him, and to die -- to lay down, to hand over, to surrender my life. Only in this way, can more of the life of Christ be manifest in, and through me. This mystery is great. "Christ in you, the hope of glory". Jesus Christ lives in me, and He wants to live His life through me. For this to become a spiritual reality, more of Victor must die (dying to self). It is what the French mystic and theologian Archbishop Francois Fenelon describes as "Letting Go". Paradoxically, if I hold on to my life ("I want what I want, when I want it"), then I end up losing, and missing out on all that God has in store for me. C.S. Lewis once remarked that we are like children who are offered a wonderful vacation by the sea, and yet we are content to play in pools of mud. The way up is down, and to take the way down is actually up in the Kingdom of God. I must personally embrace the pain and suffering of the cross and death, if I ever hope to experience the joy of resurrection. It is only in this way that I will ever truly "see" Jesus, serve Him, and be with Him. And yet, it is hard, terribly hard. Living is hard work----so too is dying.
I am reminded here of one of my favorite collects (prayers) from the Prayer Book: "Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
Victor Sheldon is currently part of the great Advent diaspora...a Navy Chaplain stationed in New Orleans, Louisiana, until, God willing, he returns to Washington in the spring of 2020.