“O Lord, what are human beings that you regard them, or mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a passing shadow.”
— Psalm 144:4
J.K. Rowling said that the central underlying theme of her Harry Potter series deals with death. Indeed, that’s pretty easy to see. One of the first things we find out is that Harry Potter’s parents have died. And then Harry’s nemesis, Voldemort, is trying to conquer death to achieve immortality.
The reason Rowling wrote about this theme is because she was interested in how death affects the living. On the one hand, some people are working every day to extend their lives by eating right, exercising and generally taking care of themselves. On the other hand, there are those who seem to think they are immortal. They don’t treasure each moment, because they act like they have all the time in the world to turn their dreams into a reality.
Not to be morbid, but life comes with one guarantee: all of this will end.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Ecclesiastes 1:2, NIV
This week, progressive Christians lost a hero - a mother, of sorts. Or at least, a soul sister. Rachel Held Evans, the author of Searching for Sunday (among others), passed away at the age of 37. The story is nearly unbelievable, but the blogger turned author and speaker, left behind her husband and two young children early this morning.
I like to think that Rachel and I had a lot in common. She was born in Alabama just one year before me. She was a die-hard Alabama football fan. She loved the church so much that she never shied away from calling out toxic behavior and harmful theology.
And yet, I’m here, and she is gone.
We expect our heroes to live forever, don’t we? But sometimes, they are taken from us far sooner than we could possibly imagine. I learned this with my grandfather; thankfully, he lived well into his 80’s, and we had time to prepare. But when a mother of two who hasn’t even been around the sun forty times passes unexpectedly, the heaviness can seem unbearable.
The most important thing to remember when someone you care about dies is this: it won’t always be this way.
Whether your life is perfect right now, or you are walking through the most unthinkable hell imaginable, it won’t always be this way. If you’re on top of the mountain, don’t get comfortable. If you’re free falling into your dark night of the soul, keep holding on. It won’t always be this way.
The most important thing to remember when someone you love dies? It won't always be this way. via @iamsteveaustin #RHE #prayforRHE #grief
If your newborn child is keeping you up, night after night, it won’t always be this way.
If your new job is worse than you could have ever imagined, it won’t always be this way.
If your marriage is in the honeymoon stage, it won’t always be this way.
If you have the best group of friends a person could ask for, it won’t always be this way.
So don’t get too caught up in the temporary heaven or hell you find yourself in. Because, in the words of Rob Bell, “We’re all going to die.” (How’s that for some encouragement?)
“Smoke, nothing but smoke. There’s nothing to anything — it’s all smoke.
What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes — it’s business as usual for old planet earth."
— The Message | Ecclesiastes 1:1ff
Such a tragic loss like the death of Rachel Held Evans always brings my head back down from the clouds and reminds me that I’ll one day return to the dust from whence I came. Life is a vapor. Like the lilies of the field, we bloom, and then we’re gone. So don’t take this precious gift of life you’ve been given for granted.
Do the things you want and take steps to achieve your dreams. Most important, love your neighbors, hug your friends close, snuggle your babies every chance you get, and hold your partner’s hand across the kitchen table. Slow down long enough to truly appreciate your life. The Good Book is right, everything else is meaningless.
In Memory of Rachel Held Evans
In Memory of @RachelHeldEvans #grief #RHE #prayforRHE (via @iamsteveaustin)