Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On death.

Like I said a couple of entries ago, I recently felt closer to my mortality than I ever have before. This brought about a feeling of discomfort that I've never tried to properly describe. I hope writing about it doesn't pass it along to those who would rather keep such things out of mind, so if that's you, just skip this entry.

The feeling I'm talking about is a sense of utter dread at the idea that my consciousness might cease to exist when I die. I'm very attached to being, after all. It is, of course, the pinnacle of doubt in my faith in God. Christ makes it very clear that we have eternal souls, that our death is by no means the end. Still there is a little part of me that is left to ponder the possibility that this is it. When I'm gone, I'm gone. And this idea scares me to my core; It scares me in a way that I can't properly describe.

Strangely enough, for me anyway, Kimberly doesn't share this feeling at all. It's not that her faith is impenetrable in a way that mine is not, its that the idea of ceasing to exist is fine for her--if it happens she won't be there to worry about it anyway. Even typing those words chills me. Getting close to the idea is hard for me.

I've decided to write about it now because I might have had a couple of small bits of revelation about it recently. Both are simple and I'm open to whether or not they are valid. First of all, when reading my brother-in-law's latest blog entry I starting thinking about this topic, and how it might be part of my spiritual maturity. When I have felt this way in the past, the Holy Spirit has often overtaken me in a way in which I again felt so sure of God's existence that it squelched my fears. Lately when I feel this fear no such thing has happened. Perhaps these feelings and doubts have been given to me as a test of faith, something of a spiritual barometer.

Secondly, just last night I thought of the words of Christ on the cross: "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which mean "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me" (from Mathew 27:46). I am wondering if maybe some part of what Christ felt at this point, this separation from God, is very near to this feeling I sometimes have. This for me is a profoundly encouraging thought. Given who Jesus was and is, I'm quite certain that he never had an intellectual loss of faith, and neither have I ever had that problem. I think that logically, philosophically, the case for the existence of my soul far outweighs alternate explanations. What Christ had was an emotional and spiritual rift, as he sacrificed everything for us. At that point, he must have been flooded with this sort of dread. It would be a part of the doubt associated with His ultimate suffering.

What do you think about this interpretation? I'm open to the fact that I might be reading my situation into a passage about something else (though there is a case for some validity of God talking to us this way, too, I think). Does anyone share these feelings sometimes, or are most people more like Kimberly in this respect?

7 comments:

Danielle A. said...

I fall more into the Kimberly side of things on this topic, but I can understand where you're coming from though. It's a very daunting thing to think about, and unfortunately it's a question we won't know definitively until we are no longer here. I think that your last paragraph speaks highly to what we mortals think of death, and I think that Jesus' last words were almost his last breath of mortality escaping him. Not at all an easy thing to think about...

Yes - nice light topic. :)

Kimberly Pye said...

I'm more like Kimberly. ;-)

I can't understand being afraid of just being dead. It seems simpler if we do cease to exist, actually.

But whatever. I'll just go with the flow.

Kimberly Pye said...

"...it's a question we won't know definitively until we are no longer here..."

...unless we're just dead. :-)

Steve Athanas said...

Hi, longtime listener, firsttime caller..

Dan, I couldn't possibly identify more with your fear. I often have low-grade panic attacks about what if I cease being at the end?

I can't even conceptualize it, and it has, in all honesty kept me awake many a night for fear that I'll waste some of my precious conciousness sleeping.

In fairness, my own struggle with this is far from over. I'll emphasize FAR, just to be clear, but it's come a long way since I've started my journey with Christ.

Dan said...

Low-grade panic attack! That is a great description. I feel the same way when I think about it too deeply. And yes the thoughts do generally come while lying in bed. They say that this is the point at which the mind is most pessimistic. Perhaps at that point our serotonin is particularly low...

Shannon said...

Over the past couple of years I have noticed a growing tendency to be afraid of ridiculous things (tornadoes striking our house, the stove exploding, etc.) and I am starting to think that it must be fear of my own mortality in disguise. In my case, I feel pretty confident about the ultimate destiny of my spirit, but totally terrified about leaving things undone or unsaid here in the world.

Ben said...

This is one of the reasons martyrs are such heroes to me. Their faith is so solid that they endure the agony of torture in the hope of dying and being with God. Not light reading (can be very bloody), but the total absence of fearing death and the steadfastness of the martyrs' faith is an example to us all.

http://www.ccel.org/f/foxe/martyrs/home.html