Bev’s cancer diagnosis is a dark experience with an unexpected effect – it like a bright light that gives amazing clarity! When the physician says, “You have cancer” and when you visit hospitals and labs on a weekly basis, the fact of mortality is undeniable. I refuse to wander through days without purpose. I choose to say “I love you” and to express appreciation often. Early Christians called this awareness, ‘memento mori,’ keeping an awareness of death. It is not a fascination with dying, it is to help us to know and do the will of God that leads to His glory and reward in eternity.
Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses. This man started well, disappeared into the desert at mid-life for decades, had that famous life changing encounter with God at the burning bush, and finished strong, leading Israel out of slavery and bringing them into existence as the ‘people of the Lord.’ He says, “The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Relent, O LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:10-14, NIV)
We have so many opportunities afforded us in our time. We have wealth previous generations only dreamed about. We have leisure time. “Not me, Jerry, I am crazy busy.” Admit it – much of our frenetic activity is the result of our choices! We do not have to haul water for a mile, hitch up the horse to go to town, or drag wood into our house for a cooking fire each time we eat! We have the ability to create networks of relationships with many. We live better and longer lives on the whole than any previous generation. Yet so many allow their days to be taken up with trivial matters. They hang onto grudges and hate. They invest inordinate effort in finding entertaining diversions. They neglect their families and friends to play video games or watch TV. Are you spending the treasure of time to own trinkets? Will it take a diagnosis of cancer to awaken you to mortality and change the course of your life?
The Puritans brought a medieval custom with them to America. While they frowned on art for its own sake, they allowed portraits to be painted because they were an historical record. Often those portraits included a skull or an hourglass! Why? Memento Mori! (To remember death!) They did not fear death as we do. Rather, they viewed it as the gateway to Life, as is evidenced by a walk through their graveyards where so many stones included references to Heaven and eternal glory.
Paul, inspired by the Spirit, lifts our vision beyond today. As you read these words, may they not be fearful, but hopeful; words that give purpose to this day. “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down—when we die and leave these bodies—we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies. Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life.
God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. That is why we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.
So our aim is to please him always, whether we are here in this body or away from this body. For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-10, NLT)
So, help us to live like we are dying – for we are!