If you died in your sleep tonight how would you feel about it? Disappointed? Relieved? Content? It’s a strange question when you really think about it. Arguably, death is the epitome of suffering – mourning the death of loved ones, living with the constant knowledge that it might be right round the corner, the thought that we might not get to experience or achieve everything we want to. There’s a line from Hamilton the musical that I really love:
Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway.
We rise and we fall and we break
And we make our mistakes.
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I’m willing to wait for it.Wait For It, Leslie Odom Jr., Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton
That word ‘reason’. Questions of life and death usually lead to further questions about purpose. Why are we here? Why am I here? We don’t have many options: we can believe that life doesn’t have meaning, there’s no higher power, and ends in death, beyond which there is nothing. Paul in the Bible concludes that all that is left for those with this temporary view of life and death is to “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Sadly, that’s actually the perspective of the masses. Each might put their own spin on things to make it sound bearable or even enjoyable but when you grind it down to it’s core, without purpose, life is just a treadmill.
Eastern philosophies are a little more hopeful… They tell us there is a future; with the right karma we can escape the suffering of life and death. Yet, as we look around us, we have to conclude that there is no escape. Even the holiest, most spiritual or karmically progressed seem to be unable to escape. Where cynicism leads us to a black hole of nothingness, eastern philosophies trap us in an eternity of endless cycles of self-improvement which no-one seems to have perfected through the centuries.
Jesus, however, said “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). What does this mean? The book The Town Called Potential puts it like this:
“Christ prepares us for death in the future by helping us to be ready for it in the present. The ancient people lived with a very prominent consciousness of death and readiness for it. Modern spirituality has lost this emphasis. Consider the advice of three of the giants from the past:
You cannot pass a day devoutly unless you think of it as your last. (It is) the most essential of all works … The man who lives daily with the thought of death is to be admired, and the man who gives himself to it by the hour is a saint.Climacus
We cannot greatly deplore the blindness of men who do not want to think of death, and who turn away from an inevitable thing which we could be happy to think of often. Death only troubles carnal people.Francois Fenelon
Happy is he who always hath the hour of death before his eyes, and daily prepareth himself to die … When it is morning, think thou mayest die before night; and when evening comes, dare not to promise thyself the next morning. Be thou therefore always in a readiness, and so lead thy life that death may never take thee unprepared.Thomas a Kempis
Preparation for death takes place as we learn to die daily, and in many ways. There is no other way to live, than to die daily; there is no other way to die, than to have died many times before the day of death.” Furthermore, later in this book it says: “Only he who is ready to die, can truly live, but he who considers himself ready only for life, not death, does not know that he is, in fact, already dead and has never really been alive“.
There is so much wisdom in this book! 10/10 recommend! When we wake up as if it’s our last day, we appreciate everything in so much more depth! Fewer things annoy us because we don’t have time to waste and once we’re gone they won’t matter! We would only do things in a spirit of love! We cannot take anything with us once we are gone, no matter what you believe about afterlife, therefore greed is eliminated. Materialism is disintegrated, time becomes currency and rather than taking it we would give all our time away to our loved ones! Imagine living life that way EVERY DAY. Gratitude and love would become the themes of life – sounds very joyful to me!
Yes I understand that we need to work to survive in this fallen world of ours, but I guess what we learn from thinking this way is that we often put more effort into prolonging our agony than surrendering to the beauty of the moment.
Planning and having dreams and focus is not a bad thing, but it can be if it means forgetting about the importance of today. If we spend so much time thinking about later, then we‟re never fully present to our lives, our surroundings, or our God right here and now. In Rob Bell’s Everything is Spiritual, he points out that in Exodus Chapter 24, verse 12 (The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.), the verb that is translated “to stay” actually means “to be.” So what God is really saying to Moses is “Come up on the mountain, and then be on the mountain.” Sounds a little weird right? Where else is Moses going to be if he’s standing on top of the mountain? But God knows that Moses is going to spend a lot of time and energy climbing up that mountain, and once he gets to the top, actually probably before he gets to the top, he’s going to start thinking about how he’s going to get back down. And in this process, he will never be fully present to God on top of that mountain. I think most of us do this just about every day. How much of our lives do we actually miss? I’m willing to bet over 90%, myself.
I don’t think the secret lies in our memory of it either. We have pretty poor memories in comparison to how efficient the rest of our bodies are. I often wonder if God did this on purpose in order to help us. If we were constantly remembering our lives all the time, we would be once again distracted from the beauty of the current moment. However, if you just keep appreciating what’s given to you from one moment to the next, we truly can experience eternal life right within this one! The best people I have ever met, are those who have been gifted with the ability and ease of being present. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I try everyday and God is already showing me the difference. Abundant joy. So as your eyes graze across this screen, may you come to feel the depth of the blue, the warmth of your breath, the connection to the words you are reading, the sounds that surround you – however subtle. Take a moment to look up. And if you’re outside, I mean straight up! Have you inspected the sky today?! I’ll leave you now, with this wonderful world we live in. She’s missed you.
May God reveal Himself to you.
If you died tonight, how would you feel about it?