Death, Life and Eternity

I was still a rookie cop, in fact I was still a very rookie, rookie cop when my Training Officer (TO) and I headed to the station house at the end of a 12 hour shift.  As we were on the way a hot shot call came over and we were the primary unit to handle it.  Something about a knife, a kid and a lot of screaming.  A few minutes later we were up a stairwell in an apartment complex with a sergeant and an open door which revealed a crazed man holding a knife to his wife’s throat and another hand around his young son’s neck.  It was the typical stuff he said, “Leave me alone.”  “Get out of here or I will kill them.”  Obviously that wasn’t going to happen.

Over the next 15 minutes I was able to get the boy away from him safely.  Then my TO and I conspired to distract the man and try to rescue the wife.  It worked perfectly and the man ran down the hallway and turned left and the last we heard was a slammed door.  The wife told us he had guns in the room he was in and that was that.  We started down this narrow hallway with weapons out and come to the end and there is a locked door.  Being the rookie it was my job to kick it down.

That whole way down the hallway I was really rethinking this cop thing.  I had a wife and children who wanted me home each day.  It was one of those gut wrenching moments that not everyone gets.  I must say I also felt more alive than ever before.  So there I was, preparing to kick in the door not sure what awaited me when I did.  All I knew was I was going to possibly be shot and I had to accept that potentiality.  Down went the door and the next thing I see is the suspect cut his own throat several times.  Again as the rookie I had to fight him and bring him into custody.  The cuts were not deep enough to kill him just enough to make the whole thing a very sticky, nasty event.

Once everything was over several hours later I finally went home and there I thought a lot about the fleeting nature of life.  Several other moments over the last 20 years has only shown how true it is what the Psalmist wrote a few thousand years ago,

As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer. (Psalm 103:15-16)

In America it is easy for us to push the reality of death to the side.  We have so many things was this can occur.  I will let the reader think about he or she pushes aside the brevity of life.  I have seen death enough to know that it never comes at the opportune time for the person.  Sometimes it lingers well beyond that person’s desire, but usually it strikes when they are not expecting it.

LORD, make me to know my end And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. (Psalm 39:4-5)

Here are the words of Augustine on this subject:

For no sooner do we begin to live in this dying body, than we begin to move ceaselessly toward death. For in the whole course of this life (if life we must call it) its mutability tends toward death. Certainly there is no one who is not nearer it this year than last year, and tomorrow than today, and today than yesterday, and a short while hence than now, and now than a short while ago. For whatever time we live is deducted from our whole term of life, and that which remains is daily becoming less and less; so that our whole life is nothing but a race toward death, in which no one is allowed to stand still for a little space, or to go somewhat more slowly, but all are driven forward with an impartial movement, and with equal rapidity. For he whose life is short spends a day no more swiftly than he whose life is longer. But while the equal moments are impartially snatched from both, the one has a nearer and the other a more remote goal to reach with this their equal speed. It is one thing to make a longer journey, and another to walk more slowly. He, therefore, who spends longer time on his way to death does not proceed at a more leisurely pace, but goes over more ground. Further, if every man begins to die, that is, is in death, as soon as death has begun to show itself in him (by taking away life, to wit; for when life is all taken away, the man will be then not in death, but after death), then he begins to die so soon as he begins to live. For what else is going on in all his days, hours, and moments, until this slow-working death is fully consummated? (City of God, 13.10)

As I write, seconds of my life, and yours, are ticking away to never be found again. I write that but it does not discourage me.  It is reality and frankly there is nothing that I can do about it.  So like many things I believe it is best to simply embrace the reality of it and then ask how we are to live in light of it.

Much of it is found to be time that is mundane.  But may it be that life of mundane that is glorifying the Lord? The simple life of seeking to honor the Lord in your situation before you.  Speaking truth to your friend or child.  Turning away from an opportunity to sin.  Resting in the glory that your life will end only when your loving Father will say so.  Laughing and sipping some coffee with friends.  Weeping quietly as you see the scourges of sin all around you.

Live like one who knows life is truly transient so live for what is eternal.  The things list above can be only transient points in your life or they can all be done in light of eternity.  I think of Solomon, at the end of it all, wrote in Ecclesiastes,

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

It is why you will find many of the writers in the New Testament speak of the need for us to be eagerly looking to the revelation of our Lord in His Second Coming.  For it is then that death and mutability ends for us and eternal victory is ours.  Until that time, look to that day and live with that in mind.

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