Every so often I get a healthy perspective about the temporal nature of life. I was reading a book awhile back about a man in his 80s who states in his introduction the first 80 years pass like a flash. His exact words are, “80 years sounds like a long time until they are behind you.”
I have a love/hate relationship with death. I like life. I enjoy getting up every morning. I like my job and my friends and the city where I live. I have bad days but not many. And I like building things in this life. I like building books and launching others into their careers. And yet, every once in a while, I realize this whole thing is going to be taken away.
It’s enough to make me quit, honestly.
What’s the point of building something when you just have to let it go?
I was with my friend Jim Chaffee a few years back for a rare speaking gig in a warm climate during winter, (the previous month I had been in Edmonton, where it was ten below) and we took a day to just play in the sun. We rented jet skis and rode around the bay in St. Marten. Towering between the bay and the ocean stood the largest privately owned yacht in the world, owned by a Russian businessman whose name I forget. It was pretty fun to ride my rented water scooter around the thing. It was as large as a cruise ship.
Later I found myself wondering how hard it would be if you were that guy, knowing all you’ve built and accumulated would have to be left behind. I wondered whether, even if he believed he was going to heaven, he would wish he could stay since in heaven he’d likely just have to start all over. It’s a silly thought but I was trying to put myself in his shoes, you know.
I wondered whether he hated death.
I wondered if he hated thinking about it, and not unlike the Egyptian rulers of old, had elaborate plans to keep his memory and power alive. I wondered whether he thought he could beat death.
And none of us have control over death. I mean if we wanted, we could decide when we’d like to die, but we have no control over what happens after that. And not having control can be terrifying.
This whole following Jesus business is largely about giving Him control, or more, realizing we don’t have control to begin with. And a great way to measure whether or not we’ve given Him our lives is to ask ourselves if we’ve given Him our death. By that I mean are we are okay with the fact that some day soon we are going to part with all that we’ve made, all that we’ve done, and no longer have an ounce of control over what happens on the earth?
I’ll be very candid with you here.
If it weren’t for the reality of death, I’d have much more trouble following Christ. Death means some day I have to trust Him, and life is something like a preparatory academy for that moment. If I can trust Him with my death, I can trust Him with my life, and that means my next book and my relationships and my desire to get even and my money and all the rest.
Death doesn’t give me a choice. And so I’m thankful.