I recently read a eulogy of Gordon Cosby, founder of Washington D.C.’s Church of the Savior, by Jim Wallis. Cosby died Wednesday at age 94. I was struck by something Cosby recently said to Wallis: “I am enjoying dying.” What did he mean by that? How could anyone enjoy dying?
I knew a little about the ministries that the Church of the Savior had sponsored, but wasn’t aware of how extensive their activities were. Cosby and his church were certainly active. What was particularly interesting, though, was Wallis’ account of what Cosby hadn’t done:
“Gordon Cosby never needed or wanted to be out front or become a famous public figure. He could have spoken across the country, and was often invited to do so. But he instead decided that his own vocation was to stay with a relatively small group of people trying to “be the church” in Washington, D.C.: the Church of the Savior, which has produced more missions and ministries, especially with the poor, than any church I know of anywhere in the country — even the huge mega-churches who capture all the fame. He never wrote a book, went on television, talked to presidents, planted more churches, built national movements, or traveled around the world. He just inspired everybody else to do all those things and much more.”
So perhaps he was able to say that he was enjoying dying because he had been dying all along—dying to fame, to success, to self-aggrandizement. That’s pretty much what Cosby told Amy Frykholm of Christian Century that all followers of Christ should do:
“We must die to our own egos and open up to a new reality. That new being is what Christ was after. He wanted me to be a new being. He wanted the old self, the old ego, to die. God wants all of us to move into that new being of love for which we were created. Therefore, personally, I should be moving into love and embodying love. Not just doing loving things, but becoming love. That’s what it means to surrender, to give one’s life to God—who is love—to the one who planted the seed of His/Her own being in our deepest being.”
The distinction between doing loving things and becoming love seems important when it comes to death. If what I’m all about is doing loving things, I’d be interested in staying alive so that I can do more good (and perhaps also feel proud of myself for what I did). If I’m becoming love, though, I’m giving up my life, my plans, everything, for the sake of love. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to, like Cosby, reach the end of life enjoying dying—enjoying surrendering yourself to God and His love?