Yesterday I took my youngest on a tortuous trip to the Doctor and brought my oldest home early from school sick so, it seemed like a good time to post this little bit about sickness and death that I wrote a little while back. Enjoy.
. . . I have set
before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life . . .” Deut. 30:15
I headed out to see the Doctor one Wednesday this past fall to be treated for
a sinus infection. I was pretty sure I
had it by Wednesday of the week before, but my husband was having his wisdom teeth
out on Thursday and I was in denial and hoping to avoid a Doctor visit. It started as it often does with a head cold
that moved quickly into my chest and a week later I was
still swallowing and blowing out mucus in a wide variety of greens that rivaled the arrival of spring. A few days into it all the low-grade fever started, just low enough to
think I was imagining it, but high enough to make my aching body fall into a
miserable stupor every evening.
are such a slow, low, underlying illness to me, not loud and boisterous like
bronchitis, not pity-inducing like laryngitis, not violent enough to strike
fear into your friends and co-workers like a good stomach bug. I can live, get by, with a sinus infection
long enough until it becomes clear that even a little bit of sickness, a little
bit of death, is too much.
* * * * *
I love the verse above that comes near the end of
Deuteronomy; love that God doesn’t stop
with laying out the choices – life or death – but feels the need to add a qualifier, a hint for
those of us prone to making poor choices. Like an anxious game show host rooting for
the contestant, God poses the million dollar question and then, giving a not so
subtly disguised cough, offers the answer too, “choose life.”
God knows the Israelites too well, those
golden calf builders and murmurers in the wilderness. It’s such an obvious decision, “life” or
“death,” “blessing” or “curse,” but God
knows our endless excuses, our propensity for choosing death in all of its
wide variety of guises. So God makes it
clear – clear that we will struggle even with this the simplest and most basic
of choices and clear that he, God, is rooting for us to choose well.
Humans are notoriously inept at distinguishing between that which is life-giving and that which isn’t and I imagine God has ceased to be suprised by our propensity for making poor choices. The problem lies not so much in our choosing death – the gospel sees this, in fact as inevitable -the problem is in our refusal to let it go. Even the tiniest bit of death clings and spreads itself within us; just as a little leaven
leavens the whole loaf, so too a little death deadens the whole.
* * * * *
I wonder in the end if this isn’t part of the reason God came to us in human form; God embodying Life so fully that we might somehow finally be able to see the difference, make an informed decision as it were. Then God, Life in flesh, takes it one step further, embodying death itself, not by choice, but by surrender. In that one act of surrender death itself is transformed and with Christ’s resurrection the hope is born that all of our wrong choices, little and big, might be also transformed – redeemed. Because of this we gain the opportunity to be freed at last of every little bit of death that lingers and we find the courage to choose again and again, even though we fumble all the way.