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I know the title sounds like clickbait, but I don’t know what to say; it’s just plain old truth. Every single one of us is going to die one day. Steve Jobs said, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” Personally, mortality began to confront me from a relatively young age. From 11 to 26, I saw three aunts and a cousin die to gruesome battles with cancer. I also distinctly remember being well aware of the weight of the 9/11 attacks and Nag Hammadi’s martyrs in 2007. Although we are all surrounded by death, still in some way or shape, it makes us anxious. Jobs went on to say, “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.” I know; it’s morbid. It’s uncomfortable. But just because it makes us feel a certain way doesn’t mean that those feelings go away if we ignore it enough. Tertullian said, “it is a poor thing for anyone to fear that which is inevitable.” But didn’t Christ conquer death?
There was a question I’d ponder, and it was if Christ’s incarnation, which includes His resurrection, tramples death by His death, then why does death still exist? Why couldn’t He make us continue to live in immortality here on earth? Jobs calls Death one of Life’s greatest inventions, and in a way, he is right. He said, “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 fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
As cliche and melodramatic as this sounds, tomorrow is not guaranteed. If someone was to hold a gun to your head, or if you know that at the end of the day, you’d breathe your last, how would you behave? How would you change?
For those of us who were cradle Orthodox (born into Orthodoxy), we often have this dichotomy of wanting to live for God but in some way and shape live for the world. We make separate compartments of our lives to meet the separate criteria of our separate lives in hopes of becoming happy in both. St. John Climacus said, “the man who wants to be reminded constantly of death and God’s judgment, and who at the same time gives in to material cares and distractions, is like someone trying at the same time to swim and clap his hands.” Try it sometime; it’s pretty fun.
Christ warned us about this. He told us, “no one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” So I should ask myself if I were to die today, what would God say I was devoted to, Him or to how many likes I can get on Instagram? Serving His people or how many square feet I have in my home? Remembering death will determine who and where your devotion is.