Two weeks ago on the drive back from my daughter’s college graduation, we discussed Buddhism and her trip to Bhutan.One of the ideas that stuck in my mind was this: the reason we have trouble accepting things, death in particular, is because we view circumstances, feelings, and events as permanent.I have had a number of opportunities to reflect on this over the last few weeks and found this concept helpful.When I bumped the car door causing a big dent and feeling really stupid, I reminded myself that this feeling was only temporary.I found myself accepting my humanness and my dented door much quicker than I typically accept such things.
And then John Cole died suddenly in a motor scooter accident.(John Cole was the subject of a blog I wrote in January.)My initial reaction was one of disbelief and denial:“If I just wake up, this terrible dream will be over.”As his death becomes more real, I have been processing my feelings by reminding myself that these feelings of loss are temporary.All of life is temporary I remind myself.
So, has it taken away the feelings?Of course not.I am in pain, I am in shock, and I find myself bursting into tears or welling up as I feel the loss of this man who has influenced my faith by his words and deeds.
What is not permanent?
My time in relationship with John Cole was clearly temporary; I only knew him for a few years.Even my time with my wife of nearly twenty-seven will come to an end.Feelings of embarrassment, mistakes, war, and joy are also temporary.(I am reminded that there is a season for everything.)
I am finding, however, that this Buddhist concept of impermanence is helping me grow in my Christian faith. While my time knowing John Cole was temporary, the things that he taught me about a Christian lifestyle continue.I am already finding myself growing in my faith as a result of his death.I am committing myself to actions that may take me out of my comfort zone.If John is no longer around to greet everyone who enters my church on Sunday morning, I must come out of my introverted self to greet people.And what amazes me is that others in my faith community appear to already be feeling this growth, too.
This morning adults already began to find ways to fill the many—and there are many—voids left by this child of God who has left us so suddenly.I saw men pay special attention to John’s grandchildren.I saw mothers and fathers reach out to each other in support.I saw laughter as the joy of John Cole was remembered.
So what is permanent?
The unconditional love of God is permanent.If we let it, it can flow through us to others. This is the same love that each of us felt from John and it is what made John so special to us.John’s essence was the way in which he listened to the Spirit and allowed himself to be lured into joyful acts of compassion and love for others. That essence is still with us.
38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38-39 (NIV)