Last week I was in California visiting with my precious grandbaby. We went to Disney Land to celebrate her first birthday. It was cold, but thankfully didn’t rain (it rained the rest of the week).
But over the past two weeks I’ve been pondering something. What do you want said about you at your funeral?
Before I left for vacation, I spoke at my first funeral. A colleague of mine died after a long battle with leukemia and as I was thinking about what to say that would capture her spunk and spirit my mind wandered to what people might say at my funeral.
Sounds kind of morbid I know, but stay with me for a minute. Sometimes things get clarified when you look at them with the end in mind. For example, when my children were young, I often asked myself, What kind of character qualities did I want to see in them when they grew up? Taking the time to think about the end results I wanted helped me stay the course even through difficult seasons of parenting.
Thinking about staying married to the same person for a very long time keeps me mindful of the kind of marriage I want after 25, 35, or even 50 years, especially when the moments (or months) are dry or hard.
I think pondering the reality of our own death makes us more intentional about the kind of life we choose to live now. The psalmist prayed, “Teach us to number our days O Lord so that we might present to you a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
Paul instructs us to “be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” Ephesians 5:15
If you knew your days were numbered and only had 30 days to live, or 60 days or even 1,000 more days to live, would you live your days differently than you do right now?
Here are a few ways I have found helpful to live with the end in mind.
Slow Down: One of the things I don’t want said about me at my funeral is that “she was always busy”. If we want to live on purpose and not merely be busy, we will need to first stop hurrying in order to see clearly. When you spin an object, such as the blades of fan fast enough, it gives you the illusion of something solid, something permanent. It’s only when you slow it down do you see it for what it really is.
Many of us spin our lives faster and faster, doing more, striving harder, hoping, that if we’re busy enough, it must mean that we matter, our life has meaning or we are important.
But I have learned that chronic busyness as a warning bell that I’ve gotten out of tune with God and reduced myself into human doing instead of human being. Doing things is important but they do not define who we are as persons.
Chronic busyness makes me tense, irritable, and impatient (because everything is slowing me down) and if I lived with the awareness that my days were numbered, I’d remember that most of the things I’m in such a hurry to do, are not all that important after all.
Have More Fun: I confess. I’m a first born, overachiever. I find it hard to let go and just have fun. That’s why I chose not to blog last week. I was having too much fun playing with my grandbaby and I didn’t want to stop. It was her birthday last Monday and we were partying. If my granddaughter ever speaks at my funeral, I want her to say, “My Nanna loved me and we had fun playing together.”
It is not wrong, sinful or selfish to enjoy your life and take time out to play, in fact, it’s crucial to your well-being and happiness. I have found when you are purposeful in creating meaningful recreation and enjoy life in good ways, you will find yourself renewed, happier, and have fresh enthusiasm about what you do as well as greater clarity about what your values and purposes are.
Simplify: Paul prayed that we would be able to discern what is best so that we would be filled with the fruit of righteousness (Philippians 1:9-11). Simplifying our life choices teaches us to clarify the difference between what’s good and what’s best.
Good things, like ministry, serving on committees, a great job or career, taking care of a house, or even helping the homeless, are wonderful, but they can become the subtle enemy of the best things if your love for doing them is out of order. Simplifying doesn’t mean that we give up everything that’s meaningful to us, but it means that we will discern the things that truly matter, put other responsibilities or activities in their rightful place, and let go of the rest.
When God tells us to choose life, he doesn’t make it complicated. He tells us what the most important and best choices are. Jesus said all the commandments can be summed up into two. Love God first and love others well. When that becomes primary, you are living on purpose and with purpose and everything else you do falls into its proper place.
At my funeral if my family and friends said, “Leslie loved me and I know she loved God,” I will have had a life well lived.
Thankfully, none of us know for sure our lifespan but if you haven’t given the end much thought and you’re scurrying through life rather aimlessly, take some time now to ask yourself, What would you like said about you at your funeral?
Share your thoughts with the rest of us.