I have a confession to make. It’s an unusual, even slightly embarrassing, disclosure for a man of my age…
…I often watch period dramas.
I blame my wife. She loves them. Whenever the next one comes around (there is always a next one!), I am ‘forced’ to endure another hour of T.V. boredom. However, if I am honest, I am often surprised by how quickly I become intrigued with the drama of it all.
And so it was, last night.
While we were watching the final episode of Poldark, there was a death-bed scene. Nothing intriguing about that (people are always dying in period dramas). However, in this particular scene, while Elizabeth’s life was quietly ebbing away, she whispered this to her husband:
“Why is it so dark? I’m scared of the dark!”
This upset me. She was, of course, talking about her experience of dying, which it seemed that she was totally unprepared for. This was no great surprise to me, as throughout Poldark she had never been portrayed as a woman of any great faith, or spiritual convictions.
Yet she was no great villain.
Indeed, Elizabeth did possess some of the qualities which were to be expected in ‘polite society’, in those days: hospitality, kindness, perseverance etc., but none of these were sufficient to shield her from the impending darkness of the afterlife. Again, no great surprise.
So why did it upset me?
It brought to mind the dozens of people I know who are just like Elizabeth – people who have no more faith than she did, who are equally lacking in spiritual convictions, whose lives are comparably innocuous – but whose final moments could end up being just as scarey as hers.
It’s right to get upset about such things.
Most people seem to give very little thought to what might lie ahead of them after death. They prefer, it would appear, to live in a state of irrational, unfounded optimism that: “it’ll all be OK”. But how do they know? What are they basing this optimism on? What if it’s not OK?
But what’s the alternative?
When I hear about the final moments of people who do have faith, in Jesus, they often talk of “seeing a tunnel of light”, “feeling a sense of peace”, and of the grateful astonishment of seeing their names “written in the Book of Life!” Most of them are, perhaps surprisingly, not scared.
There is a far more hopeful prospect available!
And the good news is that this hopeful alternative prospect is available to everyone – whoever they may be – and they all need to hear about it. They need to know what it could mean, for them. They need to understand how to ‘get in on the act’: to join in the drama!
But they need someone to tell them.
In the second part of the recently launched Diocesan Rule of Life¹, Bishop Paul states that God’s people are ‘Sent to tell, serve and give’. Here are some of his thoughts about being ‘Sent to tell‘:
“…all are sent to witness. In 1 Peter the writer says… : “Always be ready with an explanation for anyone who asks you why it is that you’re so hopeful.” Being ready with an explanation, when the witness-statement is requested; that’s a core part of any disciple’s life.” ²
So let’s be faithful disciples. Let’s be bold, brave, and ready. Let’s warn and encourage, challenge and invite. Let’s tell others what others have told us. To some of them it will be a very great, and pleasant, surprise.
By Dan Rogers
The Joshua Centre offers help in putting all this into practice, with a 4 session training course called ‘Brighter’, which helps people develop simple habits for witnessing to others. If your Church or Deanery would be interested in hosting this course, please e-mail me to arrange some dates (firstname.lastname@example.org).