Life, death, regeneration: it’s the perennial changing of the seasons. Summer flowers lose their vibrance and wither in the cool air of autumn. Leaves fall and cover the ground, decay and are repurposed as nutrients for the earth. Autumn days resign their warmth to the longer nights of winter. The heartbeat of the natural world slows, as living things become scarce as the winter sun, in silent preparation for the new life of spring.
Just as the natural world goes through death and regeneration in the changing of the seasons, we must endure death to truly experience the fullness of life.
It’s part of the redemption process – it’s the gospel story. It’s our story. A fresh start. Spiritual maturity. A second chance. Call it what you will – but it isn’t clean and it doesn’t happen overnight. It can be, in fact, quite dark and very scary. Death, by its very nature, is painful and leaves its marks – its scars. The deeper death dives into our beings, the more it hurts and feels like, well… death.
And this is the crazy part: to find the life we are meant to live, we have to choose to die.
We must accept the facts that 1) we can’t control what happens to us in this life, and 2) that there is a better, fuller life somewhere inside of us, waiting to be born. But it’s really, really tough to let go and completely give up control. Historically speaking, we humans have put a pretty high premium on gaining and maintaining control and power.
Too often, instead of accepting our own death as part of this process, we try to fix something that’s broken in our lives, to make it good again – non-toxic and healthy and life-giving. We’ll even go so far as to control and fix other people to avoid losing the life we have; or, perhaps more accurately, the life we think we want or need. But this need to feel in control is based on our deepest and darkest fears. And it’s these fears that keep us from experiencing true joy, hope and love in our lives. Our fears will always drive us into a dead-end.
What really must be fixed is us. And not merely repaired, but reborn. Recreated. Transformed to live in faith, not out of fear. This takes a huge amount of courage, and an ongoing commitment to trust God with the results.
I should know.
Over the past several months, I’ve experienced death and resurrection firsthand, and it’s been by far the most challenging season of my life (refer to some of my prior posts for examples). In the midst of the greatest pain I’ve ever known, with nearly lifeless breath I called out to God to hold me, fix me, mold me, and to use me. I’ve never been so, at once, hopeful and terrified for the future. I guess that’s faith.
And so God chose to love me unconditionally through family and friends who have encouraged me and prayed for me; not to mention a few who walked with me through the darkest times, in the midst of their own struggles and vulnerability; without whom, I dare not imagine where I might be today. The gift of this new life is not only my deeper sense of joy and hope, but that I am more able now than ever before to share and experience life with the people I love.
I may always be a work in progress – continually struggling to give up complete control and accepting the deaths I have yet to face in my life. But no matter in which season I find myself, I know that I am never too far from love, and that new life is on the horizon. And for that, I am eternally grateful.