A few days ago I read a moving obituary by Frank, who is the son of Edith Schaeffer, the wife of Francis Schaeffer, both of whom were prominent figures in modern evangelicalism. Frank had long been a critic of his parents views of Christianity. He then concluded his memorial with these words about his mother: “I’ll miss her voice. I learned to trust that voice because of the life witness that backed it up. I know I’ll hear her voice again. You won Mom. I believe.”
As I read this, my heart was stirred with deep emotions and hard questions. I have known about this family, and followed some of their writings for a few years now. I had for long been enthused about how it was that Frank left the Evangelical Church and become such a critic of that which he was born in, and helped found. I had wrongly considered that Frank was no longer on speaking terms with his parents due to their disagreements, and Franks criticisms. Yet, nothing could be further than the truth. As I read Franks last farewell to his mother, I was moved to the point of tears. From the outside there appeared to be so much hostility, yet from the inside there was nothing but love. That a man who walked away from his mother’s faith could look back at her and say “I know I’ll hear her voice again. You won Mom. I believe“ is a most profound and beautiful story.
I began to ask myself: what will happen when I die? Perhaps, if I was fortunate enough to be loved, and I was, there may be people who will weep for me. All will not care, some will care somewhat, and few will care more than all. But what then? Will that be it? My life will result in a few tears and nothing more? Will all the days I worked, all the money I earned, the places I went, things I bought, amount to nothing? Will it have as much purpose as a book that no one ever reads? Will I become like a movie, filmed, but never watched? Like bread that’s baked, but never eaten?
We will all soon die
There is no escaping this fact, we are not eternal, but we shall all see the face of death. One day all will meet this fate. Both the poor and the rich, the famed and obscure, the leaders and followers, the beautiful and plain, the thieves and judges, the great and filthy, all of us will meet on destiny’s door. Your heart will one day stop its pumping and you will take your last breath. I will join you. We cannot escape this. Grown men cry and weep at this moment. Hugo Chaves, the president of Venezuela wept and begged at his last hours, uttering cries of “please don’t let me die.” And then as his eyes closed for the last time, he became absolutely silent. Everyone may be with you in life, but at that last second, none can follow you to where you go, and none will want to. Everyone dies, and everyone meets death alone. There is no way to avoid that twinkling moment when all you have built becomes no more than a memory. It is a fearful thought. It’s unavoidable so we do everything possible to avoid thinking about it. How utterly foolish of us! As the wise man said “It’s better to attend a funeral than to attend a banquet, for everyone dies eventually, and the living will take this to heart.” (Ecc 7:2)
Live so that your death would bring life
Everything that you obtain now, you cannot take with you.
Some live to take, others live to give. Which one are you? Are you wholly concentrated on the act of building yourself an empire of fame, fortune, and influence? Do you plan to posses and obtain things for yourself? Do you perhaps want masses of people to remember you and admire all that you have accomplished? In the end you will be forgotten. Perhaps, for a time, you might be remembered by those that want to build their empires like you, and they will foolishly study you and strategize how they could imitate your conquests and acquisitions. Yet they will follow you in more ways than they imagine. Just like you will die and lose everything, so too they shall follow you into the grave, penniless and hopeless. If you live for selfish gain, you may leave a large inheritance that your children will fight over, but will not leave a legacy. What memories will people remember of you? How you constantly sought to take and obtain material wealth? How your eyes, now being empty of life, were once filled with vile greed? They will remember you as a foolish person who sought to build up an empire than now lies in ruins. Be assured, its not only the taking of wealth and fortune that corrupts. If you life your life for religious battles and always strive to be “right” and to put others in their place, what then? If you attempt to win every debate and outlaw every sin, what will they think of you after you are gone? Even if you can obtain the self prescribed title that you seek, of the most most perfect person, is that will they remember you as? No, they will feel a sense of relief that you and your condemnation have been eternally silenced. They will only remember the heartless zealot who so often cursed them and their deeds.
Everything that you give away now, will forever be yours.
Yet, if you are filled with that selfless spark of Christ, that gift of Grace, and are utterly humbled by the Creators merciful kindness in the death of Christ for our sins, it will create ripples of grace that emanate from you. The people that you interact with shall see a kind heart willing to give rather than take. They shall see your eyes filled with genuine love and compassion, not cold and calculating what profit you shall take from them. They will see a stranger that is closer than a brother, someone who is willing to spend his time and money on them, with no desire to be reimbursed. They will see something that is against all the laws of this universe, a person living selflessly for the gain of others. Just as Christ emptied himself for you, so using His grace, empty yourself for others in such a way that they will be forever affected. Live purposefully and live humbly, and always ask “how will they remember me?” Live in such a way that they can hardly recall you, but most assuredly remember the Christ in you. Live so their minds would be filled with memories of a person so moved by the cross, that his/her life was defined by it. What do you want them to remember about you when you die? Thousands of moments where the self-sacrificial love, which was poured out on Calvary, continued to pour out from within you. Leave them with memories of a humble sacrificial heart, so tangibly changed by God’s grace that it could even melt their hardened hearts. Let them remember the man or woman who smiled with kindness in response to their false accusations. Let them be reminded of the time you spend with them, trying your best to make them feel they were loved and cared for. Live so they could remember hundreds of kind words that you spoke to them. Let them recall the authentic dedication you had for the Gospel that you preach. Let them remember how you fed the homeless, and helped abused children and women. Let them remember how well you loved your own spouse and children. Let them be reminded of the many reasons why your death is a loss to this earth, all of those reasons being written into your life by the hand of Jesus himself. Live as one who lives not for himself, but for another, higher, calling.
Live your life so that even as atheists look at your frail, defeated body, being moved to tears, they could utter: “You win. I believe.”