What lies beneath this strange and difficult time we are experiencing in our country and the world around us? What is it that has so many of us feeling a pending sense of doom? Those words, "pending sense of doom," describe exactly what people sense when a near death experience occurs. They are going to die. They just know it in their gut. Of course, it doesn't always happen otherwise we wouldn't know about this real sense of feeling like you are going to die.
Let's be honest. The root problem with this pandemic is the fear of death. We've heard about death numbers every day for the past six months without a break...how many have died, how many will die, how many died with Spanish Flu, how many died with SARS, how many die every year of the flu. The media will grab a heart wrenching story of a middle aged man or woman who dies of COVID and we all identify with the story leaving us with notion that we could die too.
I'm not normal. For the past 23 years I've been associated with death on a regular basis. I've seen or known just about every which way a man, woman or child could die. I've held a dying bicyclist in my arms on the side of the road after being hit by a car and watched him take his last breath. I have stood over many dead bodies, seen the faces of the dead and the grieving faces of those left behind. I have heard the screams of unbearable grief. Like all first responders, you cannot remain "normal," assuming there is such a thing as "normal."
I have to work at not thinking about death. My own death. How I will die. When I will die. It is not so much that I am afraid of dying, its that my mind often will dwell on it. I have to say to myself, "Stop it Nick! Stop thinking about what hasn't happened and likely won't happen for quite some time!" Of course, when you think about death you can't help but think about the reality of heaven or life after death. Is it real? Is it? Doubt creeps in for sure. At least for me. I never really knew what faith was until becoming a first responder chaplain and facing death and the ensuing doubts about life after death.
Even though I preached about faith for over 20 years in the church it hasn't been until witnessing so much death that I actually needed faith in my life. All the time before, I talked about it...thought I had it. What I had was religion really. Mind you, Jesus is real and I had him too and encountered the spiritual mystery of a nuanced supernatural sense of God's presence. Now, I wake up every day and strive to be sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see, cannot see and will not see until I die.
Our only solution for "fear not" is to reckon with the life you have today, this day, this moment with a hope that there is a God who is Love. Am I living to die or dying to live?
My book dwells on all of this. It is a wrestling match with God in a way. I hope you find time to read.