Are you dying to live?
Would you say that?
Are you dying to live authentically?
Dying to live fully?
Dying to live abundantly?
Dying to live faithfully?
Metaphorically speaking, right?
You want it so very, very much.
You name it priority.
You designate it worthy of your commitment.
Or, maybe you just want it so very, very much,
and yet there’s no real connection to any of your actual priorities—
to your commitment—to your living.
Or maybe you don’t want it at all, but you use the language
to make it sound like you do.
And so, it seems to me,
even metaphorically speaking,
there are appropriate and inappropriate usages of the phrase (I’m dying to …)
that correspond in some measure to the lengths to which I’m willing to go
to attain my expressed desire.
There needs to be a correlation between what I say I want,
and my commitment to get what I say I want.
Even so, no matter the lengths to which I’m willing to go,
some pursuits remain too trivial—ultimately unworthy of the metaphor.
No matter how much I’m looking forward to ice cream,
“I’m dying to have some ice cream”
does not seem, in any conceivable circumstance,
an appropriate use of the metaphor.
Ludicrous, on the one hand—entirely too much of an exaggeration,
disrespectful, on the other …
of those who really are dying.
So it’s not always metaphor …
if it’s disrespectful of those who die?
And everyone dies.
We are all, in fact, dying a little everyday, right?
Not what I meant when I thought to myself that everyone dies.
But it is true.
So we’re all dying to do whatever we do—whatever we do,
and we should evaluate what we do in light of that—
should evaluate all we do in light of that.
Is this worth my dying for?
A practical exercise in mindfulness:
I will be fully aware of what I am spending
some of my allotted time doing
because I will not get this time back.
That might cut back on a good bit of T.V.—
not necessarily a bad thing at all!
So inappropriate use of the expression may be disrespectful
to and of those who live with a respectful, mindful sense of their own mortality
(of the value of their allotted time),
but our metaphor is more disrespectful of those physically dying
not abstractly, not one day, but more immediately—
dying before you would think their time would be—
dying not having lived full lives.
To say, metaphorically, “I’m dying for a new pair of jeans,”
when in the third world country in which those jeans were made
people are literally, physically dying—
of a lack of potable water,
of treatable disease—
is the height of inappropriateness and disrespect.
So circumstances call the metaphor into question.
It’s equally disrespectful though of those who die for their beliefs.
To say, metaphorically, “I’m dying for a new pair of
Citizens of Humanity or True Religion jeans”
when there are those who die for the sake of humanity
those who die for the sake of religion—
also scales heights of inappropriateness and disrespect.
So our metaphor may well be terribly disrespectful
to and of those whose circumstances and those whose commitment
leads them beyond metaphor.
Yet that’s not to deny not only that our initial hearing of this expression
(“I’m dying to …”) leads us into metaphor,
but that our primary response remains in the realm of metaphor.
Most contexts of the phrase are metaphor.
And death as metaphor (particularly linked with resurrection)
is often located in some cyclical reality
rather than a final one:
the seed that “dies” so the sprout can grow,
the death of winter into the new life of spring—
the seasonal cycle,
the cycles of life—
and I get all that.
It’s true. It’s good—appropriate—insightful—meaningful.
In like manner, when it comes to our faith, more metaphor, right?
“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth
and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world
will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24-25).
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for the sake of the gospel,
will save it” (Mark 8:34-35; Matthew 16:24-25; Luke 9:23-24).
All understood as metaphor, right? Until we get to the death of Jesus—
the real death of Jesus—the physical death—
the circumstance to which his commitment led him—
The death of Jesus in Scripture is not told as metaphor.
It’s told as what happened.
But still our faith story as told in our living … metaphor.
Jesus as God’s word made flesh, dies;
we, as God’s words made flesh, don’t.
Interesting, isn’t it, that it’s metaphor when applied to us,
but not when applied to Jesus.
And the earliest stories present the resurrection the same way—
as statement of fact—just the fact. He was dead. He rose.
Only later was there interpretation.
Only later was meaning ascribed and appropriated.
At first it was simply fact—and mystery—
trembling and astonishment and fear.
Then it became meaningful.
And with meaning came the metaphors.
Because if it’s not metaphor—
if it’s not interpreted—explained,
it doesn’t mean anything—
it’s just death—just another death,
and then a mystery with no bearing on my living.
Metaphor though relates Jesus’ death to me as something other
than the Ash Wednesday reminder of my own death
(Remember mortal, you are dust, and to the dust you shall return)—
something other than the truth to which we all relate—
which we all embrace—which embraces all of us.
And metaphor relates Jesus’ resurrection to me
as something other than some historical miracle—
but as a truth within my own living.
So lots of metaphors are subsequently absorbed into the relating of these events:
the military metaphor, the death of Jesus as part of God’s war with Satan;
the economic metaphor, the death of Jesus as ransom for others;
the sacrificial metaphor, the death of Jesus as the final sacrifice;
the legal metaphor, the death of Jesus within God’s court where God is Judge;
and the triumphal metaphor, the resurrection of Jesus
as victory, as vindication—
as the violation of all we know,
that I might possess the possibility of more than I know.
And it’s not that to name resurrection metaphor empties it of meaning
(unless applied inappropriately, as mentioned—
ore unless the metaphor is grossly stretched
in some vain attempt to fully explain).
But metaphor allows me to claim in the story of Jesus
something substantively different from any reality I know (resurrection),
and claim it for myself rather than acknowledge
the reality of someone committed enough to die—
not just for an alternative vision of reality,
but for working to implement (create) that other reality.
Jesus’ death and resurrection as metaphor
allow me to claim the benefits of such a living as his
without having to live it.
So we need a suspicious appreciation of all these metaphors—
along with the awareness that we do ourselves no favors
talking in terms of metaphor
if we’re talking about a unique event unlike any other.
So while some would say when we get to the resurrection,
we have to read that part of the story in Scripture as metaphor—
that that’s the only way to ground it in reality,
here’s the thing—metaphor—death as part of a cycle—
is called into question by the concreteness and finality
of death that’s not metaphor.
And, if that’s the case,
is it also true about resurrection?
He rose. Nothing to be understood.
Nothing to be explained.
The meaningful life that led to the death
was not the end. Period.
It’s not to be explained in some metaphor: military, economic, religious or legal—
though there’s much to be gained in such considerations.
It’s not the resurrection of the old pagan gods’ seasonal reality
ever dying with the winter, ever reborn in the spring—
though there’s insight to such consideration.
it’s not dying to one way of being
only to be born again into another (a la the seed)—
though there’s insight to such reflection as well.
We don’t know what it is.
And if we can know that—
know that we don’t know,
maybe we can know enough,
in our here and now,
to tremble, to marvel and to fear.
For there’s not much at all in Scripture that’s not focused on the here and now
including much (most?) of what we project into the here- and now-after.
So amidst all that we must say we don’t know—
can’t understand—can’t explain,
we may need a new emphasis on the fact—
the reality that we don’t take seriously enough—
the living death that is our cultural legacy.
Paul writes to the Corinthians:
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised;
and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain
and your faith has been in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14).
Strong words. Without disagreeing, I would add:
If Jesus was resurrected, but is not reborn in me, it doesn’t matter, and
if he was resurrected and is reborn in me, it doesn’t matter.
So are you dying to live—dying to live faithfully?
If Jesus had just died of old age, as he would have, right?—
if he had not lived in such a way as to force the issue,
would he have been resurrected?
Maybe the the question is less are we dying to live,
as are we also living to die?
Are we forcing the issue?
Do we live dying to what is to live into what is not yet?
I have a cross necklace. I got it in Jerusalem.
I don’t wear it much.
Too daunting to take seriously.
Too important not to.
comments and questions for your consideration:
• How would you comfortably complete the expression: “I’m dying to …”?
• Do you consider and evaluate your activities in light of your allotted time?
• Are there choices you make in terms of how you spend your time that you would make differently if more intentionally considering your dying?
• Is your consideration of dying to believe purely a matter of metaphor?
• Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: “Someone who won’t die for something isn’t fit to live.
• Do you feel the need to understand Jesus’ death and resurrection to affirm them?
• Can you imagine what it might be like to affirm without interpretation?
• Can we appreciate metaphor suspiciously?
• Are you dying to live—dying to live truly, abundantly, faithfully?
• Do we force the issue? Do we confront the world in and through our living with an alternative reality?
• Do we live dying to what is to live into what is not yet?
• Do you believe the resurrection or trust it—count it as one of your faith affirmations or live into it?