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Are You Sleepwalking Towards Death?

Death is one of the few guarantees. It comes for each and every one of us. Yet, not all deaths are created equal. There is the tragic death that comes in youth, and anticipated death in old age. Sudden death from accident or violence. A slow, managed death in a hospital. There is diversity in death.

In another sense, though, there are only two ways to die: Awake or asleep. We see a reality, presence, and dignity in the deaths of people like Malcolm X, the passengers of Flight 93, and Archbishop Oscar Romero. These are people who died with their eyes open. They understood the moment in time that they occupied, and they seized it.

One of the greatest fears of the medieval European Christian was of dying suddenly, without the chance to confess sins and prepare for the hereafter. Yet today we live in a society of sleepwalkers. Our culture denies the reality of death and loses touch with the visceral beauty of untamed life. Each day, each breath, each interaction is rippling with vibrancy, but so often we are oblivious to it.

I, too, have been a sleepwalker. I believed that I had to mortgage today to purchase tomorrow. I bought into a lifestyle of delayed faithfulness. In exchange for a mirage of responsibility and security, I surrendered the vibrancy, freedom, and power of the present moment. Rather than being renewed and transformed, I allowed myself to be conformed to this darkened, crumbling world.

Fear. That was at the heart of it. Fear that the truth wouldn’t really “work” after all. Fear that my ideals and passion wouldn’t bring home the bacon. Fear that this present moment, with all its beauty, still wasn’t quite as real as my uncertain imaginings about the future.

I’m choosing not to live in fear anymore. 

It’s simple practicality: Fear just doesn’t work. Numbing myself to the joy of the present has never paid off in any way that really matters. Buying the future with the past is the game of the principalities and powers – the capitalists, politicians, and elite rulers. It’s not a game for me or mine. Our life, our calling is to serve the Lord. Today. Come what may. And there’s joy in that. There’s freedom in that.

Death comes to each and every one of us. No one escapes this final fate – no matter how rich, powerful, or successful they are in the eyes of the world. All that really counts for anything is: Will you die with your eyes open, your heart prepared, your spirit at peace? Or will you be one of the millions of sleepwalking zombies who goes to the grave with a life unexamined, joy unexperienced, love unexpressed?

Death waits for no one – and neither does this precious moment. Right now. Will you seize it?

Related Posts:

Do You Have the Courage to Face the Horizon?

Theology is Great, But What I Really Need is Jesus

  • charlesburchfield

    I like your quaker query. It’s around 3am here in the Pacific Northwest.
    My thoughts, after reading your post were directed to some quotes in the poem by t.s.eliot
    The Little Gidding

    …if you came at night like a broken king,

    …and what you thought you came for
    Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
    From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
    If at all.

    …Either you had no purpose
    Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
    And is altered in fulfilment.

    You are not here to verify,
    Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
    Or carry report. You are here to kneel
    Where prayer has been valid.

    And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
    They can tell you, being dead: the communication
    Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.

    Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us
    To purify the dialect of the tribe
    And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight,
    Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age

    …the rending pain of re-enactment
    Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
    Of things ill done and done to others’ harm
    Which once you took for exercise of virtue.

    From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
    Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
    Where you must move in measure, like a dancer.”

    We cannot revive old factions
    We cannot restore old policies
    Or follow an antique drum.

    Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
    We have taken from the defeated

    What we call the beginning is often the end
    And to make and end is to make a beginning.

    We die with the dying:
    See, they depart, and we go with them.
    We are born with the dead:
    See, they return, and bring us with them.

    A people without history
    Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
    Of timeless moments.

    We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.

    A condition of complete simplicity
    (Costing not less than everything)

    The Little Gidding is the last of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.