The one question that most of us avoid is this: “When will we die?” Most of us are part of this universal denial. We live as though we will live forever. Barring the second coming of Jesus to wrap up time and space, and He has taken much longer than any of us would have guessed, we will all experience physical death.
No, I am not getting morbid as I face the end of another year. (OK maybe just a little.) It’s just that I was reading Henri Nouwen’s ‘Sabbatical Journey’ again recently and was struck by his journal entry for December 4th 1995.
“How much longer will I live? Quite a few of my classmates have died already. But my father is nearly ninety-three and in good spirits. I could live another thirty years! Do I want to live that long? Or do I hope to be united with Christ sooner?”
Nouwen died in 1996, at the age of sixty-five. His father outlived him. This reading struck a chord in me because my father, who is eighty, lives with congestive heart failure. I, on the other hand, was given a clean bill of health after a recent medical check up.
Fact is, none of us know when it is our time to die. I should know this since my wife died of cancer at the age of thirty-seven.
But perhaps it is right that we should not be obsessed with the time of our death. Not because we should fear it, but because we know that the time of our departure from this world is determined by God.
“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm 139:16 NLT
God, our loving heavenly Father, determines the alpha and omega of our time on this earth. The time of our departure is not in the hands of terrorists nor cancer cells. It is in the hands of God.
Rather than being obsessed with the time of our death, we should do as Nouwen suggests in the same journal entry.
“Only one thing seems clear to me. Every day should be well lived. What a simple truth! Still, it is worth my attention. Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentments? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions! I must trust that the little bit of love I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and in the life to come.”
Every day should be well lived.
I too have come to see time in terms of days rather than months. Or years. Every morning I wake up I thank God for the gift of another day. I ask for wisdom and strength to live that day well.
Of course there are many ‘off’ days when I wake up with anger, impatience, and/or anxiety!
I pray that as I grow older, there will be less ‘off’ days. I pray that there will be more days that I live open to the many gracious surprises of God. That I will live more days looking for opportunities to plant seeds of love and laughter in the lives of the people in my life and the people who come my way.
Perhaps this is what Jesus had in mind when He told us to live a day at a time, trusting our heavenly Father, and seeking His Kingdom. (Matthew 6: 25-34)
Your brother, Soo Inn