As a hospice chaplain, I am required by my employer to carry a few specific things in my car. For instance, KN-95 masks, hand sanitizer and even a CPR resuscitation mask.
However, the most important piece of equipment, in my opinion, is something issued to me during my military career. Soldiers called it the BS detector.
Yes, I said it. But for the purposes of this spiritual column – and for my mom – let’s call it my “bull poo” meter.
While my hospice-chaplain job most often requires quiet and reflective listening, it sometimes requires a good BS gage.
Fortunately, the meter was working well last week when a colleague began telling me why she wasn’t getting the COVID vaccine.
“My body is a temple,” she said, hinting at 1 Cor. 6:19-20. “I don’t put junk in my body.”
The nearby M&M’s jar was screaming a different story.
Then she added with a wink, “We’re both Christians. We don’t fear death, right?”
Wait. Did I hear that right? Was she telling me that she’s not afraid of dying from COVID, but the vaccine scares her?
I mean, if you’re going to heaven, what difference does it make what sends you there? The exchange sent my poo meter pegging into the red. The thing nearly overheated and may have to go into the shop.
I wanted to yell, “B.S. Of course you’re afraid of dying! Everyone is.”
The truth is that the fear of death can be a gift in at least three ways.
1. It gives us an awareness of our fragility and keeps us safe within life’s speed limits.
2. When we acknowledge that life has a deadline, pun intended, we increase our intentionality toward finishing our life’s goals.
3. Finally, it has been said that man is the only creature who is able to anticipate his own death. If that’s true, we should be inspired to seek a passion for living beyond the mundane.
There was no question that this woman feared death as we all do. But instead of admitting it, she simply turned on her religious bravado to deny a common fear. And that just doesn’t pass the sniff test.
If you aren’t afraid of dying, you’re resisting your humanity. I’ve been at the bedside of many individuals facing death, and few have ever said they were glad they were dying.
Most of them expect a physical and spiritual pain to accompany dying. They are afraid and will tell you they don’t want to hurt. They don’t want to feel alone. They don’t want to feel their legacy will be forgotten.
So rather than to deny their fear, the spiritually healthy will affirm their faith and confidence in what happens after this life. They know how to release the fear as they reach for heaven.
For those practicing the Christian faith, I remind them that even Jesus feared death. He begged his heavenly father to “let this cup pass from me.”
Jesus wasn’t being a coward or unfaithful. He was being a real human. He was admitting that crucifixion scared him. So, he asked God, “Isn’t there another way?”
Jesus had a healthy fear of death in that he knew death wasn’t the problem. The challenging part is how we choose to push past our fear of death toward the things God has for us to do in this life. In fact, most often we refuse to even think of death in order to not think, experience or acknowledge the fear
Unfortunately, I walked away from my colleague’s desk last week too afraid to tell her any of this.
I guess fear is a common theme that runs through all aspects of life.