We often say that death is part of the Fall, that big bad decision that Eve made by eating the apple, but I don’t believe that. Without death, the ecosystem that is our world just doesn’t work. Without death, there is no life. God wouldn’t have designed a world that required death, then withheld death until Eve screwed up, and then punished Eve and all humanity for screwing up. I know people will disagree with me. I’ve been disagreed with over worse than this, so, you know, just be nice when you call me a heretic in the comments.
We have this romantic notion of what it means for the lion to lay down with the lamb – this idea that there is a world, an ecosystem, that can exist without death. We try to enact this in our diets, by eating vegan, or raw. Yet this ignores the fact that the plants we are eating must die. The book Food and Faith makes this point far more eloquently than I could hope to in a simple blog post (and I highly recommend it as a good, thought-provoking read). The simple fact is that in our ecosystem, living beings must eat, and when something is consumed, it dies. Without death, there is no life.
Why does this matter? Because we refuse to embrace death. Death is an essential part of life. We deny it, turn our backs, bemoan it, and wail over it. And it is normal and good to grieve. After I initially drafted this post, I learned of the death of a friend. And I wept. Death is loss. Yet it is also inevitable.
Tomorrow I will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the ultimate victory over death. The Resurrection promises a world where death will not be loss, where death will not be the painful separation of loved ones. But although we hope for a new world, a new ecosystem, if you like, we still live in a world where death is required for life.
While we frantically ignore and delay death, we give ourselves permission to live small lives, lives that pretend to be safe. We fear what others think. We refuse to take risks. We grasp at everything, pretending that we can control the world. We put off tasks “until.” Until we lose the weight, until we organize the closet, until we have the right job, until we have enough money. Let’s embrace the inevitability of death and live lives filled with passion and risk and love. After all, one beautiful lesson of Easter is that death is not the final ending: there is something more.