“For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain”
I displayed this desk top verse proudly during my college years. It became a fixture and so settled in upon my desk that eventually the only time I saw it was when I dusted it. And really, I had no concept of the meaning behind it. What 18 yr old girl , looking brightly into the future, can embrace a concept of her own death? And how little I knew of a life so lived for Christ that it could swallow me up.
Many years have passed since that little plaque and I have learned a few things.
I’ve learned that sometimes living for Christ might be harder than dying for Christ. Good intentions remain just that - good intentions. One passion usurps another. And as time passes without action, the specificity of convictions are lost. Similar to panning out from a location on a Google map, the details fade against the backdrop of “more”. My intentions must lock in with gears of motion. I must continually remind myself that the servant in the parable of the talents is judged not for doing wrong things but for doing nothing.
I’ve learned that life is brief and accelerates as one gets older. The Scriptures tell us that life is but a mere breath in time. On a recent Sunday our pastor directed us to take a “congregational breath”and then he said, “Congratulations, that was your life.” The rest of the sermon came alive at that point. There is an urgency in time that I seldom feel. But gray hair and wrinkles are reminders of how quickly "todays" bleed into "yesterdays".
I’ve learned that obvious sin may be managed but living with the depravity of my own heart is exhausting. A prayer phrase from the book, The Valley of Vision, reads “sin’s deformity is stamped upon me”. It's true. Each day I start with a clean slate but before I have even left the house I’ve fallen multiple times. I am the freshly bathed child who immediately slips out to play in puddles of mud. Without the grace and mercy of Christ, I lean toward destruction.
I’ve learned that dying is not a one time event. I will have to die many times before that final hour. Many of these deaths are within my control, choices that I make in response to the rhythm of life. I will have to die to perfect families, flawless marriages, and satisfying jobs. To having my own way, to keeping peace, to having order. To earthly security, to always being liked and respected. Because my ultimate death will be consummated someday in One who gave everything up for me. My tiny sacrifices are paltry against the backdrop of His love.
As I brush off the mental dust from Phil 1:21, I want this verse to hold me instead of me holding it. I want to be so wrapped up in Jesus, so living His grace that I need no plaque to announce how I embrace living and dying.
And that's a long walk home.