As I write, I’m preparing to bury a good friend. Another victim of cancer. Another casualty of the fall. Another reminder of the ignoble prosaic ending to the poem so noble and full of wild glory that neither tongues of men nor angels can fully capture: a human life. An ordinary human life.
There actually exists no such thing: an ordinary human life. It is a great misnomer, an oxymoron of colossal proportion. To think a life ordinary is to believe a delusion and reveals the shameful fact that we can barely bear true beauty. We tire quickly of sunsets, find wind inconvenient, and define boring as watching the grass grow. It is a very strange thing that we find violent virtual deaths in our films more exciting than the gentle life that miraculously awakens when buried, pushes up through the dark soil, catches the sunlight for food, and grows into a brilliantly green brush stroke of beauty in the very real landscape art we view in full 4D every day.
“As for man, his days are like grass” (Psalm 103:15). Perhaps that is why we find the lives of men boring and ordinary. Watching a man is like watching the grass grow.
The Grass Withers
My friend was like grass. But he found the adventure of grass less boring than most of us. For much of his life he was a farmer. Year after year he tilled the dark soil, buried the seeds, and watched the epic of nourishing life slowly unfold. He endured the suspense and sometimes the tragedies of storms, droughts, and pestilence. He knew that the flower of field was both fiercely resilient and fearfully fragile.
My friend was like grass. His life was one of unassuming beauty. In the landscape of reality you would not notice him unless you took the time to look carefully. He was gentle and quiet. He moved like the slow, steady rhythms of the seasons. He was poetry in motion. But we frenetic 21st century westerners, who have largely lost the patience required for poetry, might call it slow motion.
With unpretentious drama he came to faith in the living Christ while young, faithfully loved a faithful wife for forty years, and faithfully raised three children well into adulthood, each child now sharing his faith. And he faithfully shared his faith with anyone willing to listen, and many who weren’t. Even in the evening of his life, when his grass-like body was withering, hospice nurses heard about his hope in the sun of righteousness, the bright morning star, who makes it possible for us, even though we die, to live in the eternal morning where the grass of God withers no more (Psalm 90:5–6; Malachi 4:2; John 11:25–26; 1 Peter 3:15; Revelation 21:4; Revelation 22:16).
My friend was like grass. Grass might seem to grow slowly, but in reality its poetic life is brief. The scorching wind of cancer passed over him and now he is gone (Psalm 103:16). He suffered the ignoble dishonor of death, and this week we will sow the perishable remains of this gentle, down-to-earth man, like a seed, in the ground.
But make no mistake: we will indeed sow it. For it is the core of the Christian hope, the hope at the core of my friend’s very soul, that what is sown perishable will be raised imperishable, what is sown in weakness will be raised in power, what is sown natural will be raised spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:42–44).
When Grass Will Flourish Forever
A day is coming when we will know the epic story of this quiet, grass-like man has always been far more thrilling than the best novels and the greatest films. We will marvel at our former dullness, having ever considered such a thing ordinary.
Someday the curse will be reversed and we will not have the patience to watch the millisecond epics of cinematic mass murder that captured the imagination of fallen man. We will not have the capacity to find dim phantasmal shadows entertaining at all. Not when what is playing out before us in vibrant colors now inconceivable is the gloriously wild real story of everlasting grass that, having burst from the ground, is alive with the light of the undying Star.