Here in the UK we say, ‘I’m dying to see you’; ‘I’m dying for a drink’; which of course is a way of saying I really, really want this to happen. Or we say, ‘I can’t wait to see you’ etc. expressing the same sense of urgency. We are not dying of course and we have no alternative but to wait.
At the heart of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth is the insight that the ‘kingdom’ of which he spoke so often is entered only through a process that feels a bit like dying. It also needs a kind of waiting though not with the impatience most of us feel when we have to wait for a train or to be served in a supermarket queue.
In the western Christian calendar today is Good Friday. Yesterday, in the Gospel writers’ dramatic scheme they took us to the garden of Gethsemane. Here was a deeply disturbed man facing an agonizing decision:
“My father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”
Because of his teaching and example Jesus faces the possibility – no, the probability – of death. Here is the man who had said:
“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 16:25)
Now he has to ‘walk his talk’, practice what he has preached.
He will die…..for what? His followers started pondering that question as soon as they began to recover from the shock and grief of his death. It’s a question that has occupied the minds of Christian theologians ever since. If you are thinking that I’m about to plunge into theological speculation at this moment: relax. I am not!
Laurence Freeman, the leader of the World Community For Christian Meditation, says, “Every time we meditate we participate in the death of Christ.”
So, as a contemplative Christian I am dying to…..what? I am dying to the self that doesn’t like dying any more than it likes waiting in supermarket queues. I am dying to the self that compares itself with other selves and finds itself wanting and goes to great lengths to make up what it thinks it lacks. I am dying to the self that thinks it knows all the answers including, for some of us, the answer that goes, ‘I’m no good’ (or ‘I’m better than him/her’). I am dying to the self that panics and freezes when it is confronted with a challenge.
I could go on. The list of things that I mistakenly think are essential about me, or that are a hindrance to me, is a long one.
In three days time western Christians will be celebrating Easter: an experience that transformed a bunch of terrified men and women into a world-changing community.
So,like them, I am dying to experience the abundant life of the kingdom Jesus talked about. And remember this ‘kingdom’, this realm of Being, is not the exclusive domain of us who call ourselves Christians. I am dying to discover the truth about who I really am. It’s a liberating and risky truth. For some it can involve martyrdom – see my previous post. It’s the truth about all of us. Happy Easter or whatever festival of life and abundance you prefer to celebrate.