And just like that, he was gone. Kobe Bryant, NBA superstar and worldwide icon, was killed early Sunday morning in a tragic helicopter crash. The crash also took the lives of eight other people including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter. It was sudden and completely unexpected. Fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons are taken too soon and we are left to ask difficult questions with no easy answers or no answers at all.
At Rambling Ever On, we do not deal with the “story of the day” very often. We have chosen to stay away from most of the hot button topics, instead writing about issues that have been a part of our spiritual and cultural conversations for much longer. So, in one sense, this is a departure from our norm. In another sense, it very much fits with what we have always strived to do.
The Shock of Death
When I heard the news that Kobe Bryant had died, I was shocked. When someone famous dies unexpectedly, we feel the reverberations of that news all over the place. These people were bigger than life and their deaths seem to take on some of that magnitude. Kobe Bryant was as big as they come. There are many others who have written about his life and legacy – the good and the bad. I’m not qualified to spill any more ink on that particular angle. His death, along with the deaths of the other eight passengers is tragic, sad, and devastating to many families. I pray that God will give peace and comfort where it is needed most.
Kobe Bryant was 41 years old. One year younger than I am. He was a husband and father – seemingly devoted to his family in very commendable ways. He was wealthy and powerful beyond imagination. And yet, death did not care. The brevity of life and death’s absolute dispassionate selection process rear their heads during these times and force us to pay attention. Nothing is guaranteed. Our end will never arrive on our terms or according to our timetable.
What Does Scripture Say?
The Bible makes this profound truth abundantly clear throughout its pages. David wrote in Psalm 144 – “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” He added in Psalm 103 that “as for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” James writes in his letter in chapter 4, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” The message is clear: Our lives are brief and will end before we know it.
Obviously, we understand this to be true, though we fight against it in various ways. We are eternal beings living in a temporal space and we live in the confusion of that dichotomy: God created us to live forever – Adam and Eve sinned and introduced death – Sin and death were defeated on the cross by Jesus. All of that is true, yet we still live with the here-and-now effects of Adam’s sin. We live with death and dying and will only see the fruits of redemption’s labor once we have crossed the threshold of death’s door. It is a path every one of us must walk – no matter how rich and famous. No matter how poor and unknown. We “do not know what tomorrow will bring.” Yet, Scripture and our very senses promise us that our lives appear for a little time and then vanish.
Living in the Tension
How do we best live in that tension? Knowing we are created for eternal life but feeling the ever-present gaze of death on our backs? The answer to that question is as simple as one can imagine and more complex than our brains can handle. Answering that question is a life-time commitment of faith and obedience. Another Psalm by David exhorts us to “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” Simple enough, right? Trust in God. Do good. Befriend or cultivate faithfulness. These are simple concepts yet they require constant diligence and dedication on our part. We can willingly and faithfully carry out these acts of obedience only if we have the proper view of life.
An Eternal View
This life is a vapor, a mist, a breath. It is the small dot of an “i” in the endless narrative that God is writing. We are called to take the long-view. The eternal perspective. We look far beyond our lifespans into God’s endless stream of life, and we understand our place in all of it much better. We are called to “choose life,” that we “may live.” That “life” is salvation through Jesus. When we choose life, we are choosing something eternal and everlasting over the temporary things of this world.
Jesus in Matthew 6:19-20 famously implores us to store our treasures in heaven – in eternity – not here on earth where all things pass away. Paul in his letter to the Colossians tells us to “Set [our] minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Once again, the focus is clear: Eternity. This does not lessen the importance of our daily lives at all! In fact, it makes what we do in the here-and-now much more important. We can do this and do it joyfully even in the face of death because we know Jesus is right now preparing a place for us – in eternity. [John 14] Our lives, however fleeting, have lasting value and worth. That should be both a comfort and a challenge.
Echoes in Eternity
Death is awful and senseless. We hate it. God hates it even more; the cross proves just how much. None of what I have written above makes any sense of death. There is no sense to be had there. Life is short and the end can come at any time. Nothing is guaranteed. Yet, our path is clear: live for God, love others, and do our best to serve and cultivate faithfulness. We must take the long-view, the eternal perspective. By seeing life through God’s eyes, we can live faithfully in the here and now. We do this knowing our labors are not in vain and that everything we do “echoes in eternity.” Everything we do has eternal significance. We will always have questions but we can live securely in the knowledge that we serve the One whose very existence is the answer to all those questions.
I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?C. S. Lewis – Till We Have Faces