Dying Before We Die, Part 2

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Dying Before We Die, Part 2

 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life…nor things present, nor things to come…will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8::38-39

Admittedly, the concept of dying-before-we-die is not easily grasped. It might better be titled consciously-letting-go-before-we-must. Done right, it requires a well-developed intuition and a plan of attack. Without these two elements, allowing established aspects of our lives to die-before-they-die can become careless risk-taking. True, at some point in the process we have to trust that a higher power will not fail us, but we should strive for some degree of clarity regarding what we intend to accomplish in our dying and how we will begin to begin again.

To clarify what dying-before-we-die is about, I will describe an event from my own life where, ultimately, I decided not to “die before I died,” only to be “killed off” in a protracted and unpleasant death a few years later. Remember, dying-before-we-die is not something that leads to the physical death that ends our time on earth – at least not normally. Rather, it is about growing into something more than we are today, which first requires giving up something – allowing something to die – in order to allow a rebirth to fill the void. Here is an example:

About a decade ago, I had an opportunity to jump into a new profession. I was eligible to begin drawing a modest pension from my long-time employer, providing a financial cushion to help ease the transition into a new professional life. One part of me felt like this was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Another part felt it would be a crazy move. After all, I did not hate my job. It was steady, meaningful work. It paid well. It was familiar, and I was comfortable. Even so, I had a persistent urge to explore new options – to let this profession die and allow myself to be reborn into something new. Perhaps I would get a teaching certificate or enroll in seminary. Perhaps I would try (again) to establish myself as an author and/or a songwriter.

Ultimately, I did nothing but cling to the security of a profession in which I had grown stagnant. I did nothing, that is, until the owner of the company I had managed for decades decided to sell the company. I died a death not of my own choosing; and it was a difficult, protracted death. Remember, the life-cycle of all things of the earth is birth-growth-decline-death-rebirth. This is as true for companies and nations as it is for all living things. It is not in the nature of healthy life on earth to stagnate or remain unchanged. It is not so much that God forces an ugly death-of-the-status-quo upon us as it is that life itself forces difficult deaths upon us when we hold too tightly to that which has run its course. If we are not being reborn and growing, we are dying. The choice to orchestrate a rebirth on our own terms or to have something forcibly removed from us is ours, under the free will God gives us. Dying before we die is about choosing the former option.

This is a timely lesson given the current and dramatic global upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of lives are being relentlessly uprooted with job losses that may not return. More and more, we are seeing unusually empty shelves in stores. The ability of governments and non-profits to step into the matter-of-life-and-death gaps for the marginalized is being threatened by significant reductions in tax revenues and donations. And the numbers of marginalized people are increasing by the hour.

Life as we knew it is evolving and is unlikely to return to the way it was. Will we use this time and these changes to co-create a rebirth that will allow healthy growth in the new reality? Will we proactively make the changes now based on our gut-instincts, or will we settle for whatever new reality is imposed upon us once the dust settles? Will we create our new life in a way that is just, fair, and sustainable for at least as long as anything remains just, fair, and sustainable? Will we hold loosely enough to our new life to willingly let it go when the time comes for another rebirth? These are the challenges of dying before we die. And they help prepare us for the death that will find us reborn on the other side of the veil.

In the words of an author I can no longer identify: “To die and be reborn is not easy.”

This is the 32nd in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.

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