Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dying to Live

I'm reading Henri Nouwen's book Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring. One of his main points speaks to learning how to die well. We all will face death one day, and we get only one shot at it. What does it mean to die well? Nouwen says that one part of this is to become like children; have a second childhood. He clarifies by explaining this has nothing to do with weakness or immaturity, but with a newfound freedom and strength.
     This is not the voice of a small, timid child. This is the voice of a spiritually mature person who knows he is in the presence of God and for whom complete dependence on God has become the source of strength, the basis of courage, and the secret of true inner freedom.

     Recently, a friend told me a story about twins talking to each other in the womb. The sister said to the brother, "I believe there is life after birth." Her brother protested vehemently, "No, no, this is all there is. This is a dark and cozy place, and we have nothing else to do but to cling to the cord that feeds us." The little girl insisted, "There must be something else, a place with light where there is freedom to move." Still, she could not convince her twin brother.
     After some silence, the sister said hesitantly, "I have something else to say, and I'm afraid you won't believe that, either, but I think there is a mother." Her brother became furious. "A mother!" he shouted. "What are you talking about? I have never seen a mother, and neither have you. Who put that idea in your head? As I told you, this place is all we have. Why do you always want more? This is not such a bad place, after all. We have all we need, so let's be content."
     The sister was quite overwhelmed by her brother's response and for awhile didn't dare say anything more. But she couldn't let go of her thoughts, and since she had only her twin brother to speak to, she finally said, "Don't you feel these squeezes every once in awhile? They're quite unpleasant and sometimes even painful." "Yes," he answered. "What's special about that?" "Well," the sister said, "I think that these squeezes are there to get us ready for another place, much more beautiful than this. where we will see our mother face-to-face. Don't you think that's exciting?"
     The brother didn't answer. He was fed up with the foolish talk of his sister and felt that the best thing would be simply to ignore her and hope that she would leave him alone.

     This story may help us think about death in a new way. We can live as if this life were all we had, as if death were absurd and we had better not talk about it; or we can choose to claim our divine childhood and trust that death is the painful but blessed passage that will bring us face-to-face with our God.
This made me think about our life at present here in The Orchard. I've posted a couple of times about putting roots down like bamboo (here and here), and I do still believe that, while we appear somewhat dormant right now, there will come a season of growth and flowering. But before that, I wonder -- is it really just root-putting-down that is happening?

In this blog's very first post, I said Cathy & I were not really thinking of ourselves as planting a church -- instead we were planting ourselves and seeing what God would grow.

In light of Nouwen's words, I'm wondering if, instead of saplings being transplanted we're more like seeds being planted. And we all know what it takes for seeds to grow...


  1. Loved that "baby" story. Something to think about for sure. Thanks1

  2. Thanks Bob. I appreciate your comment. I looked through your blog and can see how that particular story might be especially poignant for you. I don't know how much you read through my info, but I am a Hospice RN -- so I can say with an especially sensitive heart that I hope the very best for you in your search for healing!


    ~ Keith