Dear Children: Live Like You’re Dying . . . Tomorrow

Live Like You're DyingThis is the second post in a series called “Letters For Christian Armour”.
 
Dear Children,
 
I recently noticed something very disconcerting in the mirror:  two strands of gray hair. My heart fell into my stomach. At 35, I felt a tangible sense of my mortality like never before. I had crossed the divide from young to . . . well, not young.
 
When I was in my early 20’s, my dear grandpa George told me that he distinctly remembered the age when he no longer felt like a young man himself: 33. At the time, I was incredulous!  Though it was still a decade away, I couldn’t imagine anyone feeling old at 33. I didn’t ask grandpa why he felt old at that age, but after my gray hair experience I think I know the answer:  that was when grandpa started going bald. I bet it was his first undeniable sign of physical decay, like gray hair was for me.
 
When you’re growing up, you usually don’t think much about mortality. Your friends are all young and their parents are young, so you are surrounded by people who are relatively unlikely to die. When you get to your 20’s, your friends are still young and usually healthy. While their parents may now be somewhat more likely to face health issues, you don’t see that firsthand because you are less likely to personally encounter your friends’ parents at this age.
 
By the time you reach your 30’s, things start to change. Most people now know someone their age who has died unexpectedly. In my high school graduating class of about 300 students, six people died by age 35. One was a very good friend of mine. Parents of your friends also start dying now. For these reasons, mortality in general often starts to become tangible at this age.
 
Then, one day, a sign of your own mortality hits home closer than ever before. It could be something as simple as a gray hair. But it reminds you that even though you are still alive, you are in the process of dying – while you are laughing, while you are working, while you are playing, while you are sleeping. You are dying.
 
Whether we are shocked by someone else’s unexpected death or by the unexpected harbinger of our own mortality in the mirror, that shock is firmly rooted in a false assumption that everyone is going to live to a ripe old age unless a doctor has said differently.  Doctors have given some people, whom we call “terminally ill,” a more specific life expectancy to work with. Doctor-issued life expectancies are not necessarily any shorter than yours, however. You may die tomorrow, doctor’s prediction or not.
 
Does that make you uncomfortable? If so, I’m glad I wrote you this letter – because that means you are not living like you are dying. You should be, because you could die tomorrow and I want you to be prepared spiritually.
 
How can you be prepared spiritually to die at any time? By always prioritizing your faith with a sense of urgency.
 
Despite the way your friends might make it seem, you don’t (necessarily) have another 60+ years to figure out what you believe in. Making decisions that impact your soul for eternity would become much more urgent if you knew tomorrow was your last day on earth.
 
Therefore, don’t be fooled by romantic notions like “life is a journey, not a destination.” The truth is, for Christians, life is about the destination. The destination is eternity with God and what we do in the journey here on earth should be inextricably tied to this fact. Romans 14:8 speaks of this tethered relationship between earthly journey and heavenly destination:
 
“If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”
 
So live like you’re dying . . . tomorrow. How would your faith and relationship with Jesus today be different if you had that knowledge?
 
You’d be praying (a lot).
 
You’d be reading the Bible (a lot).
 
You’d be loving others (a lot).
 
You’d be forgiving (a lot).
 
You’d be asking for forgiveness (a lot).
 
Sound familiar? This is how the Bible calls us to live all the time as Christians. If you’re not living like this now, it’s because you’ve forgotten you’re dying and aren’t placing an appropriate sense of urgency on your faith. You’re prioritizing the journey. Here’s the thing: once you start believing that life is about the destination, and prioritize your faith accordingly, you will be free to embrace the journey and smell the roses along the way. Being a Christian does not mean life is only about the destination; it means life is first about the destination, then the journey. I promise you the roses smell a lot better when you know where you’re going.
 
Love,
 
Mommy

8 Comments

  1. Jeannine Melville on February 16, 2012 at 7:26 AM

    This post really inspired me to make some changes! Thanks so much for the gift



  2. Jennifer on February 16, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    I like this one too, especially the last part. And, btw, you are lucky, I have tons of gray hairs and I’m younger than you. I’ve been getting them for years already.



  3. Melissa Pyles on February 20, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    Good advice that all Christians could use or be reminded of. Thank you.



  4. David Crain on February 21, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    This is an especially touching and profound post. I always thought I was no longer young when i no longer could think of myself as a teenager, when I turned 25. Reading this post, I realize the year I turned 25 was also the year a dear friend of mine suddenly and tragically died, leaving behind his daughter, and his wife who delivered his only son 7 months later. His death made me come face-to-face with the prospect of my death, and my dying.

    The five things one should do were they to die tomorrow are beautiful and true. Thank you,



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on February 29, 2012 at 3:40 PM

      What a tragic story for your friend. It seems that everyone has known someone or known a friend of a friend to have had something tragic happen by 30 or 35. I feel like I have to hold onto my seat tightly for the next decade, never knowing what is around the next corner. No matter how strong our faith is, it is virtually impossible to not be shaken by the unpredictability of life.



  5. Erin on May 5, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    So, can I hijack this letter and give it to my own children as well? 🙂 It’s perfect. It’s beautiful. I think this every night before I go to sleep – “tomorrow I may die; did I live today as if that were true? Did I honor my God above all else? Did I love every person with which I came into contact? Did I worry and fret over that which is mortal?” I want my children to have this same understanding and to live (and die) by it.



    • Natasha Crain on May 6, 2014 at 8:29 AM

      lol Erin, Of course! Thanks so much for the kind words. I love that you think to ask yourself those questions each night. Now I want to borrow that from you. 🙂



  6. […] Here’s a letter I wrote to my kids as an eventual reminder that they need to live like they’re dying…tomorrow. […]