“Oh, that was a good one. Maybe even good enough to use at your funeral!”
“What? Why would you say that to me?” my wife responded.
Once again, a statement had escaped my mouth before I’d considered how it might be taken. What I’d meant as a silly compliment to my photography skills had communicated something very different to my wife. As different as a thinly veiled death threat! I laughed my way through an apology and while she laughed at me!
As the year opens, don't forget that death is coming. You will die and your funeral is closer now than ever before. Genesis tells us the same, “…for dust you are and to dust you shall return.”
Can we talk about that? Or is that topic off limits?
I understand your preference to ignore the grey hairs and the wrinkles in yourself or someone you love, but diverting your attention won’t protect you. You can’t extract yourself from this through virtual reality. Likewise, science isn’t going to find a cure for your fatal condition. And Silicon Valley doesn’t have an app for that. One day death will come for you.
What do you do with that?
For centuries Christians have turned to a practice known as Memento Mori. This Latin phrase has two meanings. Literally, it means, “remember that you have to die.” The second meaning is a symbol that reminds you of your mortality. For some, that’s a special coin, a picture of a loved one who’s passed, or another item, but for me, it’s the local crematorium.
I pass a local funeral home on my way home from work. Each day, I look to the chimney to see if it’s spewing out smoke. The end of someone’s loved one. The body of a person whose life story is complete. Then I remind myself that I’m never more than three days away from my body being in that oven. Three days from now all traces of my physical self could be gone from this world. I’m here for a limited time. I’m just passing through. Yes, it’s morbid, but you know what, it never fails to positively impact me.
If I’m feeling stressed it helps change my perspective. If frustrated, it helps me call out to my Father for peace. If joyful, it helps me overflow with gratitude. Most of all though, it restores my priorities to what they should be.
As disciples, the brevity of our earthly life should focus us. In our culture of consumerism, lack of priority is the #1 obstacle to disciple making. The reality of our impending death fills the Scriptures. We’re reminded to set our minds on things above, not earthly things, to store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven, and that death is at work in us.
Unfortunately, our default view of death is far removed from God’s. To God, our death is a sacred event. A precious entrance from one realm to another (Psalm 116:15). It’s the back cover of a book whose first words were written during the year of our birth. When death comes for you, what story will your life tell?
Death doesn’t negate life’s purpose, it demands we discover it. Our mortality doesn’t obscure our mission (or lack thereof), it clarifies it. Death helps us see that we cannot perpetually complain of busyness without eventually acknowledging the reality that we’re choosing to live our lives without appropriate priorities.
This year, I challenge you to discover or acquire a memento mori; a reminder of your death. It’s coming. This could be the last new year you ever experience.
- When death comes for you, what story will your life tell?
- Did you live comfortably or did know the fellowship of suffering with Christ?
- Did you see His life resurrected in you and those around you or did you see death advancing in your life through unchecked sin?