What's in the Pretty Box?
A little girl sat beside her mother at the funeral of an elderly woman. As the service began, the funeral director asked every one to stand as the casket was rolled to the position of presentation to the assembly. The little girl, now standing by her mother’s side, tugged on her dressed and motioned for her mother to bend down so she could whisper in her ear. The mother obliged and listened as the little girl whispered, “Mama, what’s in the pretty box?”
Sometimes the child’s perspective exposes our attempt to cover reality with a pretty veneer. There was really only one answer the mother could give – a dead body. We don’t like death and we shouldn’t. While we will all face it, it is not natural to us. When God created man, he formed him to be eternal. He breathed into him an immortal spirit, and placed him in an environment that would sustain him forever (Gen. 2). So when the first humans sinned and were separated from the tree of life, they began to do what they were not originally created to do – die (Genesis 3). So death isn’t natural to us, therefore we don’t like to embrace it. We deal with it by putting our dead bodies in pretty boxes and putting those pretty boxes in the ground where we can’t see them. Then we cover the ground with pretty flowers, so we don’t have to think about what is six feet below us. While we might attempt to “pretty” death, it is anything but pretty. It is the culmination of all that is evil. It steals from us our loved ones and tears at our hearts.
However, our attempt to “pretty” death should not delude another reality, and that is the immortality of the spirit. I keep coming back to a quote by C. S. Lewis. “You do not have a soul. You are a soul that has been given a body.” We need to remember that. We need to remember that we are first and foremost an eternal spirit, living in a tent – a temporary dwelling, and that we are waiting (2 Corinthians 5). We are waiting to receive our permanent home, which is a new body – an eternal body – made available to those who believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and seek to live obediently unto Him (1 Corinthians 15).
Therefore, we should remember to take care of our spirit and the way we do that is by giving it what it needs the most – spiritual nourishment. We do a lot to take care of our physical bodies. We diet and exercise; we fix it up with the right clothes and make up. We spend a lot of time and money on this effort, when in reality it is all for naught. You can even put make-up on a dead body, but it doesn’t change anything about the state that it is in. Therefore, it makes sense that we should feed and take care of the part of us that is eternal.
Paul the apostle writes, “For the flesh sets its desire against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, for these are in opposition to one another...” (Galatians 5:17ff). Paul paints the battle between the spirit and the flesh. The Native Americans used to describe it as a fight between two dogs – one black, one white. When the little Indian boy asked, “Which one wins?”, the answer was, “The one you feed the most.” If we are feeding the lusts of the flesh more than the needs of the spirit, eventually the flesh will win. This can happen even if the lusts we feed are not in themselves immoral.
Death is inescapable, and while it may seem for the moment that Satan gets a victory, we must realize that he only gets the victory if he has won over our spirit. Feed your spirit with the good word of God so you may be strong for battle (Matthew 4:4). Meditate upon His precepts night and day so you may know how to use the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-17). Exercise your spiritual mind so that your senses may be trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). Live in such a way that when it is time for your funeral there is more to you than just what is in the pretty box.
Norm Webb, Jr.