I was a hospice chaplain and I have preached my share of funerals for family members. I have sat many bedside death watches. Yet, I know nothing about dying. I have the ability to do it. What I lack is the certain knowledge of how well I will do it.
When you are my age, and the invincible immortality of youth has fled away, you think about such things. My appointment draws near. Without a doubt, there are more years behind me than ahead.
There have been times in my life when I ran after death, wished for it, and considered intervening myself. Death holds no terror—only questions without answers. Not the kind about heaven and hell, not about the mechanics of it, or whether human existence is finite or infinite, but about how death will dovetail with this life I now live.
When the day arrives, will I have lived well enough? That is, will I have lived true enough to say that I have bravely upheld those principles which I consider elemental to a life well-lived.
It is widely held that moderation is the key to a life well-lived. From the ancient philosophers like Aristotle to the Christian scriptures, to modern literature, on to pop psychology proclaim it. Here’s the thing about answers when dealing with people, “always” and “never” just don’t apply.
I believe in a life fully lived there are times when one must dare to be rash, intensely passionate, and even foolish in pursuit of wringing from life every last drop. Perhaps, I hold that belief because I am seldom indifferent. C.S. Lewis once said that great saints and great sinners are made of the same stuff.
Once again, it may well be my stab at self-justification, but I think that “stuff” is the proper exercise of intemperance where passions not only rule but drive a soul to venture beyond the safety of convention. Have you ever noticed that the final week of Jesus’ life is called His passion?
His passion is the crown upon what He came to do. There was a reason for it, but there was no moderation or reason in the exercise of it. He let the traitor go free, did not alter his plans, told his defender to put up his sword, and allowed himself to be taken and crucified. And why? For the joy that lay on the far side. The suffering could not outweigh the passion driving His purpose for living.
If death is a part of life, then perhaps it finds its best expression in living. The saddest deaths are those encountered before a person has had the opportunity to really live. The same might be said for lives given time, but no great effort. Lives littered with untaken chances for fear of being labeled foolish. But then, I know nothing of death.
I know one little truth about life. That truth holds us so tightly that it screams for the pursuit of our passions.
”For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”