Chapter 19—Descent and re-ascent
One overriding concern for human beings is that dying is inevitable. And another overriding concern is our desire to find purpose in the life we’re living now. This thought was expressed several millennia ago when the psalmist asked, “Remember how short my life is! Have you created humans for no good reason? Who lives their life without seeing death? Who is ever rescued from the grip of the grave?” (CEB Ps. 89:47-48).
And yet the psalmist’s question does seem to raise the possibility that dying is a part of living our life. That’s probably because, as C.S. Lewis concluded in Miracles, nature has, from the beginning, established a pattern of “descent and reascent,” of death and rebirth (180). Seeds fall into the dark of the soil only to emerge reborn. Animals form as cells in the womb and then eventually die, turning back into the mineral components that the living cells sprang from in order to reform again. Referring to this process of reusing atoms and energy, Lewis wrote that in our natural lives we are all wearing “second hand suits” (246).
That doesn’t make the process of dying any less scary. But we do have the promise that Christ gives us. The continuing life of Jesus Christ after his resurrection evidenced a new and higher potential for all of us—an individuality and personality of soul that doesn’t rely on atoms. And the Lord also assures us that who we are now isn’t going to disappear into some anonymous spiritual “oneness.”
Perhaps best of all, Christ’s relationship with His Father has room in it for us. As Jesus promised his disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (NIV John 14:3). But following our Lord in this way means willingly leaving behind our limited view of what human life is. Our soul must grow new rooms of understanding and awareness. And many of us, if not all of us, aren’t going to get our hearts grown enough in one lifetime.
That’s why following our Lord in spiritual life is a continuous spiral of letting go and growing. And, yes, that means it’s even possible that the next “room” that our conscious individuality will inhabit will be right here. The psalmist was right, though. We’re not going to live this present life without seeing death. But we do have the promise that Christ gives us—not just life after death but a unique and continuing life with new understanding and awareness and purpose.
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