What’s one thing all men must face and cannot be avoided at any cost? Go walk to your nearby cemetery. Visit a loved ones grave. You will be confronted with one of two things: Firstly, the memories of the person buried there. Secondly, you will see an epitaph, a name, and a date. In between the dates of an epitaph is a dash. That dash represents a life lived. We will all face death, but how can your life count? How do you want your epitaph dash to be remembered?
Recently I have experienced the passing of friends and immediate family members from varying circumstances. One theme has united all of these: “Make your mark count!”
Two of these men, a church friend and then my uncle passed within a week of each other. However, while it could have filled my life with grief, which is a natural response, I found that it gave me something deeper. Every man will face death, either with somebody they know, or they themselves will be staring it in the face. We can’t escape this truth. But how do we perceive it? Many of us want to run far away from it.
C.S. Lewis said it best in his book The Weight of Glory, “100 percent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased.” He is saying the final curtain is coming no matter how hard we try to escape it. No matter how healthy we live now, or how safe we try to be, or how comfortable we aim to live, the final scene draws near when the final curtain drops. It is up to the man in the scene how he chooses to be remembered by the audience.
This is not to say that we should not aim to live a healthy, happy life now. If anything, the end game in sight should spur men to live with purpose and intelligent thinking on how to make their mark right now. Because life is fleeting, and the brevity of it should encourage us to enjoy the moment.
“Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” (Psalm 144:4 ESV)
Here are three healthy ways a man can view death, and make his mark in life count:
Give thanks for your past
Even though we are called to spur one another on to live with hope, it is also a truth that some of us have backgrounds full of regrets and shame. I have come from a background of brokenness which I have shared on here many times before.
Just as there are mountain peaks it is also true that there are many valleys. But it is important not to dwell too long in those valleys. It’s not the valley periods that define us. How we respond to disappointment and suffering shapes the man we are becoming.
Live for the present
If we truly grasp the reality of life right now, and run with it, we will be filled with hope to live with purpose and passion. Having a firm grasp on reality can empower men to live with clear intent and for the moment.
World renowned family therapist Steve Biddulph comments that death gives men the ability to take greater risks with the time they have been allotted.
It is a shame that death is now hidden away, because death is a teacher. If you knew deep in your bones that you were going to die, that you might not even make it to nightfall, would you live the way you are living?” The New Manhood, 2010.
Have hope for your future
Some males can freeze up when they ponder this idea of life being cut short. They suffer anxiety, have a feeling of hopelessness and genuine fear. It is not an uncommon thing. Author C.S. Lewis, he faced the same emotions when someone close to him passed away. He said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
If we are so consumed by fear of the unknown and tomorrow, we can fail to experience the lesson that life is too short to worry about such things. The lesson that death can teach us is the polar opposite, it can give us a feeling of hope and faith for what lays ahead.
One of my favourite stories comes from an Australian man that survived a WWII internment camp. Geoffrey Bingham in “Love is the Spur” recounted this one scene where all around him many men would perish and give up hope, those without hope did not finish well. Those who kept looking forwards survived anything the Imperial forces threw at them from the death marches to starvation. Hope looks beyond death and gives a reason to live now.
To conclude, when we worry about death, or what tomorrow holds we can remain stagnant. If we look forward with hope we begin to enjoy every little moment that life affords. We learn to take risks, we learn to run with momentum in the dash we have been allocated in life. How can we do that? Give thanks for your past and where you have come from, live in the present, and look forward to what lies ahead.
“…you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes…” (James 4:14 ESV)