I remember sitting at my kitchen table when my wife and I signed up for life insurance. A nice gentleman who came recommended by a friend sat across from us and walked us through everything. It was a good thing to do, and I don’t regret providing that sort of security for my family in the event of tragedy. However, I’ve sat through a couple of those types of sales pitches and I can’t get over how cavalier a salesman can be when suggesting the death of someone. Truly, a tactic that must be a pre-requisite taught by every insurance firm is to at some point in the conversation say something like “if something happens to you, you don’t want your wife to be going through the red tape, you want me to come to your door and hand your wife a big check.”
For some reason this part always catches me off-guard. I guess it’s because I’ve recognized that they all seem to not-so-subtly glorify the potential “largeness” of that check. They never talk about just handing over a check. They talk about handing over a (insert your favorite large size adjective here) check. Is that supposed to impress me? Am I really supposed to start thinking about the possibilities or even opportunities that could be afforded my family as a consolation for my passing?
As I’m still young, healthy and have people who love me, I don’t enjoy the thought of dying. I too quickly dismiss Paul’s arguments in Philippians 1 for why longs for death as the mere ramblings of one who doesn’t have a family. I don’t share his ideas of “it’s better for them if I stick around”. It is of course, but I want to experience their future here on earth as well. I suppose it really comes down to the fact that I’m so naive about the awesomeness of eternity with God that I just don’t know any better.
It is for these reasons that I simply can’t empathize or even sympathize with an old person’s desire to “die in peace”. Jacob makes reference to it twice here. In fact, he even dreams about it…
And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” – Genesis 46:2-4
The idea that this motivates Jacob to get a move on more than suggests that he wants to depart from this life, but doesn’t feel he can go in peace unless he sees for himself that Joseph lives. To a point, this emotion is echoed in the life of Simeon who desired to see the Messiah before he died. Later on, when Jacob does finally meets Joseph, some of the first words out of his mouth are “now that I know you’re alive, let me die.”
I doubt I’ll understand these words for a while, but I have watched others who could. I’ve watched friends die of cancer in the most undignified fashion. I have heard of poverty so great that it makes me question whether or not the children would have been better off if they hadn’t been born. I know this world is broken and for some, no amount of familial love will ever outweigh the hardship of their lives. In these times, I marvel at the words that the apostle Paul quoted from the book of Isaiah…
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”
– 1 Corinthians 2:9
I trust this to mean that I haven’t seen it because my eyes couldn’t even take it in. I haven’t heard it because there are waves of sound too beautiful for my ears. Of course, I couldn’t imagine it because my heart couldn’t contain the love that must be evident in the creation of heaven. I believe the sight alone would overwhelm a heart that truly understands that God made it for them.
I was once told that the best thing a Christian could do to keep his heart set on God is to meditate about the reality of heaven for a half-hour every day. This kind of focus puts everything into that “Kingdom” perspective that we as Christians are so quick to admonish each other with.
I don’t want to die, but I want to be desperate for what awaits me on the other side. While others are searching for something that makes life worth living, I am searching for that which makes this life worth leaving.