Life is a funny thing.
That we can inhale and exhale, consume food and drink, create things with our hands, think things with our brains, witness beauty with our eyes, take in the scents of our surroundings, or choose to walk left or walk right is a funny reality, is indeed very strange.
Of course, it’s entirely normal as we experience it. But at the same time, all of those things which are so easily taken for granted are really quite peculiar. Our lives are constantly in motion. From the moment of our conception, at least some part of our being remains constantly–voluntarily or involuntarily–moving.
What’s more, our lives are in a constant state of alteration. Though much of it is gradual, like learning to walk or spending years in school, significant portions of our lives will undergo sudden–even violent–change, even (at times) to the point of death.
An example: The family in which I’ve grown up in has been blessed with mostly good health. Two of my four grandparents are still living, with the two deceased having gone gradually, a result of slowly depreciating health. But in mid-July 2012, I had cracked a beer and was headed out to enjoy the evening sun on my parents’ patio when the phone rang. On the other end was news that my mom’s aunt, on her drive to see a play and visit us, had been in a car accident and died.
It was a jarring time, to say the least, but as some years have passed it’s caused me to stop and ponder every now and again the life we’ve been given; more importantly how quickly it can end and what that means for how we ought to spend the time in between.
I’ve always liked the Garth Brooks song “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” mainly because Garth is the man. But also because the first half of the chorus provides a striking parallel to the spiritual life and addresses this very question rather poignantly:
If tomorrow never comes
Will she know how much I loved her?
Did I try in every way to show her every day
That she’s my only one?
Replacing the woman in this scenario with God, it’s a sobering thought for anyone, and is especially so for us Christians. While salvation is a free gift from God (yes, Catholics believe this too), it’s the work that we do — the attitude of our interior life, how we act toward others — that puts us in a state to allow us to decide whether we desire heaven – eternity with God – or desire (according to our actions) hell – eternity without God.
Questions like, “Do my choices matter?” or “What choices do matter?” or “Is there something waiting for us after we die?” are asked by children, or by good buddies around a fire after a few beers too many, but how often is it something that we really think about in a sober and mature state?
Ask yourself: When was the last time you sat for even 5 minutes and thought about nothing but what would happen to you if you died tomorrow?
If it hasn’t been recently, it’s probably worth it to do that now.