This weekend I went to watch an old friend get low*.
I have often thought about my death. Lately the thought has been to consider what I will be when that times comes. Or to say it another way...what will I be remembered for. And a lot of what I try to do is shaped by that question.
When the reaper knocks and it's time to get low, how will I be remembered? How will you?
Growing up my father always loved epitaphs. He still does. But there is something about those words carved in stone that he was onto. He would stumble upon the graves of men and women long forgotten by time, and all that would be left of them would be the words etched in granite under the date of their death.
If you do a quick google search for epitaphs you shall find some funny, some sad, and a few profound.
If you were to visit the final resting place of Dr. King you would find the words "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty I'm free at last." etched in stone as his last and lasting words to the world.
Or if you were to visit the grave of the grace of Leonard Ravenhill you would find carved forever in stone the question he so often posed to the world, "Are the things you are living for worth Christ dying for?"
But what about us, the living? So often we can find ourselves striving for the things of God. Yet often falling and failing. So what can we do? I believe the answer requires some reverse engineering.
My father once preached a sermon he titles, 'Writing your own epitaph.' And now, two decades later I return to that idea. For I believe that this is what we must do to live the lives we wish to be remembered for. So often our lives can seep into the dullness of the everyday. We watch films and read stories of heroes and heroines and desire to be counted among them, but as soon as we do the dull-drums of life set in.
I believe the answer lies in looking past the world that we wish to leave. The author and theologian C.S. Lewis once stated it this way, "Aim at Heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither." Or to quote an even more reliable source, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."**
I have been thinking much this week on the words that I wish to be carved upon the rock that shall cover my body six feet down. If I had a will, and maybe a should have one, I would include what I wanted carved upon that granite rock.
"Here lies a wretch of a man.
Saved by grace alone,
Through faith alone,
In Christ alone,
To the Glory of God."
If I look at the life I have lived up to this point I believe that only the first line of that would be believed. But I have the rest of my life to show the world that the rest is true. I have often come back to the words of St Paul in the 8th chapter of Romans, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." I have often used this to ease my thoughts of sin and shame. And I believe that this is the reason that the Spirit inspired St Paul to pen these words to the church in Rome.
But recently I have thought often of other words penned down by St Paul, "Rather train yourself for godliness" (1 Tim. 4:7b). I have come back to these words for I believe that in them I have found the way in which the words I wish carved upon my gravestone would prove true. And in the past few months I have tried to place these words into action. Though I have often failed...I still strive to have them be proven true in my life.
We all love the Latin phrase 'Carpe Diem'. But I believe that we should call to mind another phrase, 'Memento Mori', which translated to 'Remember you will die'.
For it is only when we keep in mind our mortality that we are able to strive for the things that we can do which could be immortal.
The words etched in granite.
So, what shall your words be?
What shall you do this day to make those words come true?
*Unfortunately upon looking online this phrase has now been used to mean a type of dancing. This is an old phrasing for burial. To get low was to to get placed six feet low.
**Jesus | Matthew 6:19-21