"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On living like you're dying

If there’s one question that made me want to curl up in the fetal position with guilt, disappointment, and fear (or maybe just run away screaming), it was, “If you had only one more day to live, how would you change your life?”

Could you truly ask me anything more stressful? There’s so much I would have to do and change and be. I would need to tell every person I knew (not to mention those I don’t know) about Jesus, love so much more, serve dozens of people, be far more holy (somehow), read the Bible at least twice through, pray for every missionary I could think of, and conquer every single one of my bad habits. Of course, all of that, to be perfectly honest, sounded rather miserable, not to mention it seemed to be a dreadfully stressful last day of life. But at its heart, I hated that question because it just reminded me about what a failed Christian I was, and, once again, how I was never, ever going to be enough.

At least, I used to think so.

Do, do, do. Act, act, act. Sound familiar? What if I didn’t die that day—is such a life of crazed doing, of obsessive performance, a life I could maintain indefinitely? As I said in my previous post, if it’s not a life I would wish to live forever, why would I live it for a day? If it was only something falsely acquired by the thought of death—and not because of true life—it is a false self; it is not what God desires of me. It is the performing self, not the beloved-of-God self.

So I was lying in bed last night thinking about this and wondering, what if it was all so much more beautiful and glorious than that? What if instead, somehow, when I was asked that question, instead of stress and guilt, I was filled with such hope and joy at the prospect of the absolute beauty of living like you were dying?

The only way that could happen is if such a life was one I deeply desired, if such a life was one of a greater immersion in the love of Jesus; not one of acting, doing, and performing, but one of the resting in and pursuit of maia—of living as the Beloved within the glory of God. The prospect of imminent death, then, would change not how I acted, per se, but instead free me to a radical and foolish abandon to the utter pursuit of maia—of glory—of love—of Jesus—because nothing else at all mattered. Not when you are dying, it doesn’t.

I fell asleep happy last night, because, for the first time, I felt that if someone asked me that question, I would not need to avoid it or desperately try to forget I heard it. Instead, I would be glad, truly glad, it was brought up.

Because now I see that living like you’re dying is not a stressful thing at all.

Instead, it’s like being set free.