Roald Dahl lived a life which was, in many ways, simply fascinating. He’s known as a children’s author of course, but he also wrote many short stories for adults, many of which drew on his experience as a world war two RAF pilot. I’ve recently been reading through The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl and found the following passage. The character whose thoughts we see is a pilot about to enter a dogfight.
I don’t want to die. Oh God, I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die today anyway. And it isn’t the pain. Really it isn’t the pain. I don’t mind having my leg mashed or my arm burnt off; I swear to you that I don’t mind that. But I don’t want to die. Four years ago I didn’t mind. I remember distinctly not minding about it four years ago. I didn’t mind about it three years ago either. It was all fine and exciting; it always is when it looks as though you may be going to lose, as it did then. It is always fine to fight when you are going to lose everything anyway, and that was how it was four years ago. But now we’re going to win. It is so different when you are going to win. If I die now I lose fifty years of life, and I don’t want to lose that. I’ll lose anything except that because that would be all the things I want to do and all the things I want to see; all the things like going on sleeping with Joey. Like going home sometimes. Like walking through a wood. Like pouring out a drink from a bottle. Like looking forward to week ends and like being alive every hour every day every year for fifty years. If I die now I will miss all that, and I will miss everything else. I will miss the things that I don’t know about. I think those are really the things I am frightened of missing. I think the reason I do not want to die is because of the things I hope will happen. Yes, that’s right. I’m sure that’s right.
It struck me that this is an opposite attitude to death to that which Christians tend to have. The character doesn’t fear pain, but does fear death. He wants to live so that he can enjoy the benefits of winning the war he has fought in. He is afraid of missing the things he doesn’t know about.
What joy the Christian can have! There may be fear of pain, but none of death. Living may be a tough war, but after death there is guaranteed enjoyment of the benefits of Christ’s victory. We can have confidence we will not miss out on anything good. Best of all, this won’t change in three or four years when victory seems more or less certain, for the victory is already won. The fight is over, the victor declared, and the enemy publicly humiliated.
Now, as has been the case for all eternity, we’re going to win.