Death is gift!
Death is the way we come back to life. We need to die to the things that are killing us in order to get to the Eternal Life Jesus promises.
That is the Gospel Way of Jesus.
Though we don't often think of this way, transformation is putting one thing to death in order for something new to take its place. That's the essence of the call of Jesus to death, burial, and resurrection. As he once said, unless a grain of wheat fall to the ground and die, it cannot be reborn (John 12:24-26).
Going through my breakdown at 42 felt like that. It felt like dying. The hard thing about transformation is letting go of the thing that needs to die before we get the thing that comes in its place. It takes a lot of trust in something bigger than ourselves to do that. When you don't know if something better will come, you won't take the risk of leaping into the unknown.
I read an interesting story about a set of wealthy entrepreneurs pouring money into lifespan research. They were spending millions and billions of dollars trying to crack the code of biological death, in order to figure out how to beat it. But solving the problem of physical death doesn't solve the problem of death, because the source of our dying is spiritual, not physical. Jesus already solved the problem of spiritual death for us. It's our separation from God as the source and energy of life that causes both spiritual and physical death. That's why Jesus came to bring us back to the Father. That's why Jesus said "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26 NKJV).
I was recently hiking with my kids when we came upon a fallen tree. It was a massive tree. Its root system was standing up sideways about ten feet in air, exposing a huge gaping hole in the ground where the roots had recently been. As we paused to take in the fallen tree, my socially intuitive five-year-old daughter even expressed her deep sadness at the tree’s death. I was able to lift the mood of the moment by explaining that the tree hadn’t really died, but would eventually get recycled into the new life of another plant or tree. But even on a deeper level, the atomic particles in that tree had not ceased to spin, they were just currently engaged in a long, slow process of change, of what we might call dying and getting reborn, but in what could also be called the process of transformation.
It’s the deepest message of the whole world around us; of changing seasons, planting seeds, melting ice, rainstorms, and even human frailty. The message is that the apparent fatality of life is really the key to immortality, because nothing really dies, it just keeps moving in a never-ending cycle of becoming new over and over again. The question is, how do we tap into this cycle of transformation in our own personal lives and experience. How do we live in the hope of resurrection when all we see somes to speak only of death and burial? The answer comes in the form of a question, the question Jesus asked in that passage in John.
"Do you believe me?"
Transformation isn't just about getting better, but believing we can. To do that, we need a belief in something bigger than ourselves. Jesus offers us that something bigger. It's our belief in Jesus' ability to be with us on our journey of transformation that energizes us with the hope that things can get better, and will.
We only have so much to give. We only have so much energy, time, and resources. Any belief in ourselves as the center of our transformation will eventually faulter. This is typified by what we call a "mid-life crisis". This is usually the point at which people face the fact that death is inevitable, and there's nothing we can do to stop it. The is also the point at which we can choose to face death and get past it. That's the offer of Jesus.
When we die to our own attempts of self-improvement, then we can come alive in the power and ability of Jesus to do more than we can for ourselves.
My breakdown at 42 could have taken me a lot of different ways. It could have been the final nail on the coffin of my surrender to the inevitability of death. But instead, it was the first step towards new life in Jesus. It was the point at which I realized that everything I could do on my own wasn't enough. It was at that point that I realized I needed something more.
Even though I was a Christian, I turned to Christ in a new way after my breakdown. I began letting Him lead my life for the first time. It's only at the end of our efforts that the life of Jesus can begin. That's why we need to die to ourselves in order to come alive in Christ.
For me that death came through my breakdown. For me, a breakdown led to a breakthrough. That's how the energy of transformation works. Something has to die in order for something new to take its place.