I can’t quite remember what the context was. I think we might have been talking about one of my parents trying out a medication that might lengthen their life, but would reduce their quality of life in some way. Or maybe we were talking about cutting back on sugar? Or some pros/cons list about taking a risk? I really can’t remember. I just remember my dad saying something like, “I don’t think the point of life is just trying to preserve the corpse.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about that line when it comes to making hard decisions in life. Preserve the corpse. Is that what I’m doing when I choose my own self-preservation over hard or uncomfortable work I think God is calling me to do? Is that what my friends and family are encouraging me to do when they tell me how a decision has the potential to hurt me or my family?
I want to listen to wisdom. There are people who can see things I can’t see when it comes to the potential implications of a decision. I want to hear what they have to say and weigh out their reasoning. I’m not interested in seeking out pain for pain’s sake or being a martyr if I don’t have to be. But I think somehow we’ve got our priorities all wonky if we look at our life as our one chance to have all the fun we can or be as safe as possible, but miss out on doing all the good we can.
I am a big proponent of self-care. I think we best serve others when we are working from a position of health. I am encouraged to see self-care in the life of Jesus who often took time to be alone or to spend time with just his closest friends. Could he have healed more people if he had skipped out on some prayer time and dinners with friends? Probably. But I think he needed to model for us that healthy priorities mean taking time to be refreshed and investing in your inner circle.
I want to have cared well for myself for the purpose of being able to serve. I want to die exhausted. I want to die sunburned and tired and with callouses on my hands and maybe a broken heart. I want to have experienced pain for the sake of experiencing love. I want to have used my limited hours to make an eternal impact. I don’t want die unscarred and unscathed, without having made a difference in this world.
My ten-year-old asked me the other day if every life has a purpose. He was recounting his own adoption story and how it seemed like God had a hand on him. He wondered what he was supposed to do with this gift of life he’s been given. And he wondered if every life has meaning. So we talked about the babies we lost before they were ever born and how their lives have value to our family and to eternity. We talked about the value of life when someone doesn’t have the capacity to contribute. It isn’t that lives have value based on what they can produce, but their value is found in doing what they are uniquely, individually asked to do with what they’ve been given. Doing what you can without being a slave to fear or regret.
I don’t want to have a beautiful corpse. I don’t want to be well-rested if that rest came at the expense of investing in those who needed me. I don’t want to have prioritized the temporary at the expense of the eternal. I want to surround myself with people who get what I’m doing and can give me cautions when I need them and support when I’m doubting.
My life isn’t going to look like The American Dream. It isn’t always going to be easy or fun. But I believe it will be worth it. The sacrifices, the pain, the beauty and joy. I don’t want to make decisions based on trying to preserve the corpse. I don’t want to just be seeking my own comfort, maintaining my life for the sake of just life. I want to live a life of purpose. What that looks like for each of us may be different. It may be about faithful, quiet, dedicated service. It may be about consistently loving those in our world that push us away and seem most unloveable. It may be about showing up to a job that provides for our family even if we’d rather be doing something more exciting or “fun.” I’m not aiming for a life of high-drama, just a life of obedience even when it means taking a risk that could hurt.
Becoming a corpse is the inescapable reality of life. YOLO is a real thing. You get to decide what you want to do with that one life. I want to use it to do all the good I can.
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.”