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Death, Time, and Decisions: How Are We Expressing Our True Identity?

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” – Steve Jobs

Wow. That’s heavy. But now I have to ask: what or who are you living for with death in its proper perspective?

When I first read the above quote from Steve Jobs something inside of me jumped and said, “Yes, that’s it!” But then I quickly resorted back to the day-to-day where I’m faced with my fears, the pressure to please others, the desires that distract from God’s heart, and the momentary pressures of daily life.

Most of us who grew up in the church have constantly heard about death in the context of “are you going to heaven when you die?” And that can be a good question, especially given the eternal implications. However, we often neglect to talk about the other reality of death: how we choose to spend our very limited time here on earth is an expression of who we truly are.

I’ve often heard many well-meaning Christians say things like, “Well, your career isn’t your identity.” What is misleading about this statement is that they are correct in the fundamental Christian understanding of where our identity belongs; it belongs in being a child of our Father. However, we often fail to realize that how we choose to spend our time is an expression of our true identity.

Many will argue, “Well Andrew, what about the single mom or dad who works as a janitor their entire life to put food on the table, to get their kids through school, and to give their children a future? Are they wasting their lives?” Again: how we choose to spend our time is an expression of our true identity. If a parent is doing a job many would consider blasé, but the job is to provide, to protect, to inspire, and to positively impact the lives of their children, then that is a true and genuine expression that should be honored.

But for the majority of us, that isn’t the excuse we can fall back on in response to why we are throwing away our lives. If we’re honest, many of us are spending our time striving for the next material upgrade, the status among our peers, and the approval of society as a whole.

Society and popular culture conveniently distract us from the realities we’re aging, that our bodies are gradually wearing out, and that we are ultimately going to die. We work for companies we don’t believe in, we buy things we don’t need, we attempt to please everyone around us to no end, and we tell ourselves that “someday” we’ll spend our time doing what matters to our souls, only to end up at the end looking back in regret.

But this isn’t just about your “calling” or your career path; it also applies to what kind of friend your are, how you love your spouse, where you contribute to those in need, how you parent your children, and how you manage your finances.

Who we are and where our identity rests ultimately dictates how we express that identity. Our best reminder is that one day, whether tomorrow or 100 years from now, you and I will die. How are we choosing to live now with that reality in mind?

– AV

Questions:

  1. Where are you currently finding your identity? Is it an eternal identity, or is it temporal?
  2. When you look at how you spend your time, do you like what you see in the reflection?
  3. What can you begin doing today that can gradually change how you spend your life?

2 Comments

  1. Joseph Joseph

    This was a wonderful post and gets to the issue of living holistically for God. We are taught not to store up material things, but find our treasure in Christ. Many of us spend so much of our time, money and energy just trying to get the next “upgrade” to our list of possessions. We can’t take any of that with us, but the relationships of love that we nurture, those are our true measure.

    It’s amazing the clarity that comes to the mind when it is confronted by the reality of death. Most of us don’t like to even think about death, even though it is one of this life’s few certainties. Thanks for pushing it to the foreground to make us think and take stock. Have a great Friday!

    • Joseph,

      Thank you for such thoughtful and thorough input! You are so correct that the reality of death can bring such clarity, especially about how we are living now. I’m glad this resonated with you and thank you for your thoughts!

      Andrew

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