I came from the wake of one of my officemates last night*. She was 29 years old; a sweet, creative girl. The first person I knew from her department.
What particularly struck me about last night was the eulogy several of her high school and college friends gave. They painted a picture of the woman a lot of the audience knew and grown to love. For others who weren’t as close to her, it was a pleasant surprise to hear a wittier, playful side of her.
Then it got me thinking.
If you’ve ever been to a wake, it will get you thinking. Wakes tend to do that to you. Not out of morbidity, but because it pointed out a truth which a lot of us tend to place at the back of our heads—death is certain. “The success rate of death is 100 percent,” said the pastor at the service. “All those people who lived 200 years ago will tell you that.”
I thought about my own life. If tomorrow would be the day I die, what would others say about me? The opinions I listed in my mind were formed out of four groups of people, each of them equally valid and important. These questions then led me to even bigger revelations about the kind of person I am today, and the kind of person I was becoming. I hope they help you, as they have helped me. Here are the questions:
#1 If tomorrow would be the day you died, what would your friends say about you?
Do you have friends who you consider as family? The ones you grew up with and shared everything to? Friends you have held very deep connections with, sometimes even closer than your own family. Friends are those who you would love to love. Those who, to your disadvantage at times, you just can’t say no to. It’s just so natural to love them.
What would they say about you? Because the real point of asking this question isn’t a matter of finding out your reputation. Instead, how they view you is actually the answer to the even bigger question of:
How much of yourself did you share with others?
How open was your life to others? Did you let people in or did you spend your life shoving people out? Pushing people away, when they were only trying to help?
Did you actually have a friend who you could call a ‘brother’?
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Proverbs 17: 17
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18: 24
#2 If tomorrow would be the day you died, what would your enemies say about you?
While friends are easy to love, enemies are a whole different story. These are the people you would rather not work with, let alone even make eye contact with. The people who you’d automatically find yourself running away from. They make life harder and more inconvenient, either by accident or because the feeling is mutual.
Who would these people be, and what would they say about you? The reason why they are on the list is because having enemies actually serve a purpose. They are our testing ground for maturity. They push our limits to see just how far we can go without recoiling back. So their opinion of us is actually the answer to the question:
How far did you go in giving love to others?
You always have a choice on how you’ll treat them. They weren’t given to you just because God wanted to piss you off. Rather, every interaction with them reflects just how much you’ve grown to be a better version of yourself.
If you’re a Christian, a bigger question to ask would be:
How obedient were you in fully following God’s command to love others?
Jesus raised the standard of love when his commandment went from “Love your neighbor” to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5: 44).
The reward in doing this? Let’s look at the next verse:
…so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5: 45
#3 If tomorrow would be the day you died, what would your family say about you?
While your friends and enemies are sets of people you could categorize, your family is one set of people you really don’t have a choice with. You were born into that household and last name, whether you like it or not.
The interesting thing about family is that they’ve seen you for most of your life—from your cute formative years, to your angsty teenage years, to your explorative college days, and onto your present self. They’ve seen it all—the good, the awkward, the great, and the ugly. They’ve seen you grow physically, intellectually (hopefully), and for some, spiritually. They have seen you in your unfiltered, fluorescent lighting, eye baggy self. They’ve seen you in your most glorious moments, and in your worst days. Now what they would be saying about you is really the answer to the question:
How whole of a person were you?
How whole of a person were you at home, in the office, at a restaurant, and in an interview? Were you a person of integrity? The word “integrity” makes me think of the Latin word “integer”, which means whole. And more than just being a whole person, how consistent were you in showing your true self?
While friends and enemies reveal your reputation, your family reveals your character.
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.
Proverbs 11: 3
#4 If tomorrow would be the day you died, what would Jesus say about you?
If you are a theist, you believe in a higher being up there. If you are a Christian like me, you believe that that being is Jesus Christ.
Since I am Christian, allow me to talk about Jesus. He is that being up there for me. But he’s more than just a being, he is God. Not only that, Jesus is a personal God who, while having the option to throw our dirty sinful selves away, wants to know each and every one of us. Here’s the catch:
Because Jesus is God, he is powerful. Because Jesus is personal, he uses all that power in order to get to know every little thing about us… whether we like it or not, whether we like him or not.
Jesus is a level above your friends, enemies, and family because he knows everything about you. In some ways, that’s terrifying. Everything about me? Even my past? Even that one incident I told myself I’d never speak about? Even my darkest fears and biggest insecurities? Even the things I wouldn’t dare tell my best friend, parents, or even spouse? The answer to all of that is one big, resounding, power-packed YES.
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Hebrews 4: 13
In other ways, knowing this is comforting. Comforting because Jesus knows everything—yes, everything—about us, yet still loves us the same. Let me push that even further—Jesus knows everything about us, and this makes him love us even more. This is the love Paul referred to when he said, “But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 8).
This radical, all-or-nothing kind of love is one that most of us aspired to receive, let alone give. As American pastor Timothy Keller put it, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything.”
In Jesus, we are fully known and fully loved.
When you die, Jesus testifies on your behalf to an audience of one—God the Father. And what Jesus says about you, when he reviews your life, is the answer to this one, simple question:
How faithful were you in what God has given you?
Every Nation’s founding pastor, Steve Murrell, once said, “God’s not asking us to be awesome. He’s just asking us to be faithful.”
Jesus died on the cross because he loves us. This wasn’t a sacrifice made in vain, for it won our battle with sin, and allowed us to have a relationship with God in the present and in eternity. He gave us all of this, and continues to bless us every day of our lives.
The question is, what have you done with it? Have you lived a life that honored and pleased Him? Or have you squandered it by chasing cheap thrills that only benefit you on earth? How faithful were you in handling what he has given you?
If you have read this far…
The answers to these four questions, and all the others in between, all reveal one thing—your legacy. By this point, I hope you agree with me that we are all to die one day. No other Bible verse captures it quite like this:
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
James 4: 14
So when your mist of a life vanishes, what will remain? If tomorrow would be the day you die, what will they say about you?
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4: 8
*Author’s note: This was originally written on May 31, 2016. Jodi, you will be missed.