Every now and then, at the risk of being morbid, I think about how I'd like to be living when I die. In other words, I ponder what the character of my life should be when in that season when I breathe my last. Negatively, I don't want to get caught with my pants down. I don't want people to think of my failures. I don't want misery and disappoint to characterize the season of my death. Positively, I want joy and thanksgiving to be the prevailing sentiment. I want the pain of loss to be coupled with inspiration. I want others to desire to live like I was living.
When Eli dies in the first book of Samuel, the shadow of disappointment and despair is overwhelming. An old man, Eli had years of opportunity to live well, to lead by example, to bring joy and freedom to thousands upon thousands of people. He represented God as the high priest of Israel. But in the season of his death he is known more for his lack of character and for his ineptitude than for his integrity and faith. At his funeral is nothing but the feeling of loss. Loss of what could have been. Loss of what Eli took from the people. Loss because of the evil Eli allowed. Loss because of the lack of judgment Eli exercised. Loss due to Eli's wussy leadership. A man who had so much potential… and at times who surely even gave hints of tremendous wisdom and faith… finally cut down while pity exemplified his life.
I don't want to die like Eli. I don't care if I die falling backward in my chair like Eli did… I do care if I die with the same lack of respect and lack of character and lack of favor from God. Thinking about this drives me to live well. I have set up accountability people and disciplines (like computer software) to make sure that I live well. I strive to be a better father, exercising discipline and extravagant love for my children. I strive to be a husband that is known for loving his wife wholeheartedly, unreservedly. I strive to be a pastor who overcomes laziness and the temptation of affirmation… who practices faith outwardly as I root deeper inwardly. I strive to be a follower of Jesus who is more mature in faith today than I was yesterday.
Someday, may these life-giving qualities characterize the season of my death.
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