Saturday, November 23, 2013

Learning how to die

"All along I thought I was learning how to take,How to bend, not how to break,How to laugh, not how to cry,But really, I've been learning how to die." - Jon Foreman


I sat in on a lecture at McMaster's Divinity School the other week. While the lecture was great, it was actually what the professor said afterwards to me in a passing conversation that stuck with me, and is still sticking to me. 

This beautiful, passionate professor and part-time preacher was talking about the former pastor at her current church, and how his wife and himself had both just switched into careers working in counselling and ministry in Afghanistan. While I didn't pry, she continued by debating how either one of this ministry power-couple would cope if the other one was killed for their work in Afghanistan. 

I looked at her a bit wide-eyed and surprised - this was not my original intent for the conversation - but since my face is pretty much an open book, she just looked at me and said, "I mean, of course there's a very likely risk that one of them will die doing the ministry work they're doing. And - of course - it's worth it." And then she continued as if she had said nothing at all that profound. 

And all I could do was stare, and ask myself how willing I would be to go, be a minister, and die for Jesus. I wasn't so thrilled at the thought. It pretty much scared the bee-geebees out of me. 

Which got me thinking why I would be so scared to do something like that. 

And really - not only that - but in so many aspects of my life. What have I been willing to give up - to give back to Jesus in recognition that it's all actually His and for Him - each and every day of my life?

As I've been processing through these thoughts, I've also been reading this fantastic book called, The Saint and the Sultan (Sidenote: I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in issues of peace and conflict, specifically those related to Christian-Muslim religious divisions.). 

As I've been reading through the story of Saint Francis' conversion, I see a story of youthful soul searching, of striving for the success, ambition, "honour values" of the world and then coming to this meeting-place, this complete and total shift caused by the choice to actively follow Jesus and his death.

St. Francis' death was a beautiful, daily one, where he gave up all of his possessions - so that no one could define his value by his earthly wealth. He embraced and served those sick with lepracy, and put himself at risk of also getting the disease in order to help this community of people. He made the choice to be different from his father and mother, and yet still love them as God's children. He put himself at risk of execution to try and stop the Crusades. 

It's a very beautiful and a very scary concept, at all the same time. It's one I want, that my heart desires and sees as pure, noble and praiseworthy, but one that is incredibly difficult to actually put into practice. 

I like how Jon Foreman puts it - we are "learning how to die." Life and faith are progressive. You learn more, you accept the knowledge, you make a choice to change and shift - or not to change and shift - , and then you act accordingly. And then you - again - learn something new. We are sure to make mistakes and stumble in our journey forward, but I think we will come out the other end so much more beautiful than we came in. 

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