With this Bipolar ride I’m on, I often feel that everything appears just a bit tilted or shifted a few degree. CS Lewis describes something of the kind in Perelandra:
What I saw was simply a very faint rod or pillar of light. … it had two other characteristics which are less easy to grasp. One was its colour. …The other was its angle. It was not at right angles to the floor. But as soon as I have said this, I hasten to add that this way of putting it is a later reconstruction. What one actually felt at the moment was that the column of light was vertical but the floor was not horizontal – the whole room seemed to have heeled over as if it were on board ship. The impression, however produced, was that this creature had reference to some horizontal, to some whole system of directions, based outside the Earth, and that its mere presence imposed that alien system on me and abolished the terrestrial horizontal. — Perelandra, C. S. Lewis
A friend got me to read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant close to a decade ago. Thomas was a leper. I was struck by the frequency with which Thomas had to stop and throughly go over his body. Any unaddressed injury held a high probability for serious infection. I feel like I need to scan my mind in the same way. I am constantly concerned I might become delusional. My wife assures me that I am not, hrm?
Earlier tonight, I was in a group discussing the last half of the first chapter Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. The discussion settled on verses 1:21-26
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
For me there is no question. “To die is gain” and “to live is Christ”. I am confident that the minute I die, will be followed by movement into the presence of God. If that is not gain, I don’t know what is. At the study tonight, I got the feeling that basically everyone present wasn’t considering dying as a positive. For me, I have a hard time seeing it any other way, when you taste and see that God is good, you know there is nothing better. Again, I have to wonder. Am I delusional, I sure own this thought?
When you go through chemical ups and downs you can see how just ending everything can be mistaken as a gain, with no future hope. But again I am talking about a split second movement into the presence of יהוה (YHWH). Am I missing the downside?
“To live is Christ”. This is every bit as powerful. While it entails sticking around for some additional suffering, it says, “use me how you want.” No, actually it say more. Years ago, I remember being a bit down for a few months, at this point I recognize that being down I went through as depression. The only thing I had any interest in was learning of God. I was going to several bible studies a week, a prayer service, and a weekend service or two. I wasn’t going to them because I felt like I had to, or even that I needed to, I just wanted to. Honestly, the things of God seemed like they were the only things which were not empty of value. One night I remember saying, “God, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be happy here on earth. Take my life and use me however you want, I know I will be happy in eternity.” Of all the prayers I have ever prayed, I think that prayer affected my life more than any other.
It was not true by the way. I was to be happy again. To this day, I have extended periods of joy, gladness in grace (it sounds corny but it is a good descriptor). It is in this sharing of Christ that “to live is Christ” finds its most complete expression. At the same time, it is this joy, again found in Christ, which becomes a baseline to see just how much better ‘to die is gain’ really is.
I rephrased that prayer from years ago last November. I was scheduled for a brain operation. Quite frankly, I was really about done dealing with ups, downs, pains, adrenaline, numbness, well just about everything. I said, “God, if you want to take me out of this world, this operation is a great opportunity. If nothing happens, I will trust You have something left for me to do.” I am still here and plan to be for quite a while.
Nevertheless, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”