Denial of Community

There are plenty of things one needs to contemplate when mortality becomes less of a theory and more of a stark reality with somewhat measurable time frames.  

If you are a Christian, then you should be a fixed part of a worshiping community.  A place where you know others and you are known, where the Christian life finds traction in a slippery world.  If you don’t have this, find it.  It may be a difficult process.  Plugging yourself into a group of people is hard work and intimidating for most of us.  But for the Christian it is not an option.  We are called into community both descriptively (Acts 2:42-47) and proscriptively (Hebrews 10:23-25).  
For those blessed enough to already be part of a church family, consider that church family when you find out that you don’t have long to live.  Repeatedly I’ve encountered people who have been lifetime members of a congregation, yet when they receive the news that they are going to die soon, they clam up.  They don’t communicate with the congregation (sometimes they don’t even communicate with their pastor!).  They also prohibit their spouses and family members from sharing the news beyond the boundaries they determine.
I know there are reasonable reasons for this.  They don’t want to burden others with their problems.  They don’t want to draw undue attention to themselves.  They lack the energy simply to deal with the well-wishes and calls and cards of their friends.  They want to maintain a semblance of normalcy, even if it creates a bubble of denial.  Particularly for people of a certain generation, while they would be willing to cut off an arm to help someone else, acknowledging that they need help is almost sinful.  
But consider this.  You wouldn’t withhold this sort of information from your blood-family, would you?  Well, some might, I suppose.  But most folks seem to acknowledge that it’s only fair to tell their spouse, their children, their siblings, their parents.  
Tell your church family, too.  Just like your blood family, your church family needs time to deal with the news.  They need time to begin grieving.  They need time to be reassured of the hope that Christians live and die in.  They need the opportunity to pray for you (and better yet, with you).  They need the opportunity to be of whatever help they can be.  
You can request that people not send cards, or even that they limit their calls and visits.  People will understand this sort of request.  But not telling them, that’s going to be something that ends up hurting them.  They won’t understand that request.  They won’t understand why you could spend years of your life in fellowship, yet withhold news of this type.  We sometimes think that hiding the truth is a form of love and care for others.  More often than not, it’s just a form of misguided selfishness.  I know that sounds harsh, but it remains true.  
Remember also your spouse and family in this.  If you force them to keep this knowledge to themselves, you are not giving them the opportunity to seek the support and encouragement and prayer that they need to deal with your approaching death.  If not for your own sake, then for theirs, be willing to allow them to share this with your community of faith and not just your blood relatives.
As Christians, we profess that death is not the end.  This means we need to live as though this is true, and that doesn’t change when death moves from our peripheral vision to our direct line of sight.  In approaching our death, we have the opportunity to bear a powerful witness to the people in our lives, in our blood and church families, regarding the nature of our hope.  Embrace this opportunity.  You only get it once.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s