It has always been a mystery at both beginning and end; when does life begin and where does it end?
The battle between the so called “woman’s right to choose” and “pro-life or a right to life” has gone on for well over 40 years. Most of the battle has been centered in the abortion issue while some however, has revolved around euthanasia and the “right to die” verses the “right to life or continue to live”.
This topic was made very clear and real this past Christmas as this writer witnessed my mother in what appears to be her last phase of life. As my mom lay bed ridden in not much more than a shell of a person, my mind pondered as to what happened to the mom I once knew.
After all there is no neurological problems just mainly unending pain and discomfort from a worn out body which hospice strives to make comfortable.
The mother I once knew just doesn’t seem to be there.
The apostle Paul said that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord. He also said that we wrestle not with the powers of this world but the powers and principalities of the air (Ephesians 6:12); whatever that means. Please understand that this is a theologian speaking; the mystery however remains.
He also said to let the mind which is in Christ Jesus also be in you at least implying that our feeble mortal minds were not sufficient to cope with neither the frailties of this life nor the attributes of the life to come.
Jesus said that God was spirit (John 4:24) and that if we have seen Jesus we have seen the father; even God. This indeed implied and has remained one of the key components of the Trinity or Triune God head; even Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So it would appear that if God is spirit and that Jesus is like Him (or even indeed actually Him) and is also Spirit, then we as mortals are to seek that “spiritual mind of Christ” (1Corinthians 2:16) for the specific purpose of preparing for eternity.
There are many passages in scripture which allude to humans as being “God capable” or being part of God and being divinely created with great ability and purpose.
One of the best known of these passages is from the book of Genesis where we are told, “the LORD God formed the man from the dust (more accurately red clay) of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath (or spirit) of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).
In other words without God’s spirit man would not have become human; man would not have been able to live as a sentient being.
Job ask God at one point during his great ordeal of losing all he had including family and friends, possessions and health as he nearly died, “If a man dies will he live again”? (Job 14:14).
Jesus some two thousand years later would answer the question following his resurrection of Lazarus by saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;” (John 11:25).
One of my favorite sayings is actually by yours truly. At all the hundreds of funerals this pastor/writer has preached over the years, the one thing I constantly repeated and believe strongly is, “There has never been a time when we were not, nor will there ever be a time when we will not be”.
We are in essence spiritual beings. We have essentially always existed in the “mind of God”. Now as human we have the obligation to strive for that true and perfect spiritual ability which only comes from and through Christ Jesus.
For most of us, the spiritual person will leave at death. But what about those who appear to be here physically, we see them, we hear and touch them yet they just don’t seem to be connected to the spiritual personality we once knew. Are those persons still here or has their spirit already left and is it already present with the Lord?
These are difficult questions to be sure; questions which theologians, mediums, psychics, psychologists/psychiatrist, neurologist and philosophers have pondered for centuries.
Most of us would admit that the aged disabled parent or spouse we once knew so vibrant and agile is often not the person we see towards the end of life.
What about those who become mentally ill, those with learning and emotional disabilities, and on and on; when did or does their spirit leave?
Having worked as a Psychologist and Pastoral intern in several different Hospice, Nursing Homes and hospitals and having seen people’s personalities change so drastically, my belief is that many times the spirit leaves the body long before their physical body dies.
This is not to say that physical and neurological illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, senility, stroke, Parkinson’s and many others cannot have a direct impact on a person’s personality; indeed they do.
Various psychoses on the psychiatric/psychological level can also have a direct impact on the psyche and subsequent personality as well.
Still, it is this writer, pastor/theologian’s belief and conclusion that our spirit (what makes us who we are) does indeed often leave the physical body long before we actually die.
I invite your reading of my own personal near death experience, “I Couldn’t Believe It Happened to Me” which helped to give me a new perspective on the “spiritual side of our being”.
As simple as it was for God to breathe the spirit of life into man (at both creation and our birth) so too is God and God alone who is able to remove and capture our spirits at what the Bible calls our “appointed time”.
It is very important that each of us strive to make the very most of our lives (as both Jesus and the apostle Paul instructed) here preparing our spiritual being for eternity.
For those of you wondering after that statement, yes, this writer believes totally in a faith/grace based salvation. There is nothing we can do to gain salvation apart from our repentance of sin and faith and belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
There is however, the whole spiritual living side of the Christian life. We should all focus on the message Jesus taught known as the ”Sermon on the mount/plain” also known as the “beatitudes”; what Dr. Robert Schuler often called the “Be Happy Attitudes” (Matthew 5:3-10).
If we strive to be happy, sweeter, kinder, gentler and loving we will indeed be happier people.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (or constantly seek to do right), for they will be filled (or complete) (Matthew 5:6 NIV).
James the brother of Jesus reminds us, “What is your life? For you are a mist (or spirit) that appears for a little time and then vanishes”.(James 4:14 NEB) Notice that James doesn’t mention death here.
Let’s not wait until it is too late. Let’s get our spiritual selves in shape right now.
© 2013 Dr. Lee W. Outlaw III