This morning in my medieval theology class we watched a short film depicting the life of a large group of Byzantine monks that live on a secluded mountain in Greece. It’s fascinating to see their way of life, their commitment to constant prayer and meditation. At one point in the film, one of the monks talks about how the goal of their life is to prepare for death because then they will finally be fully present with God.
There were a lot of things in the film that stood out to me, but nothing struck me more than this idea that a monk spends his life waiting to die.
I think that there are many things that we can learn from the monks, about their devotion to daily prayer, their work ethic and their commitment to reflection, but I have to admit that the idea of spending my days preparing to die does not appeal to me whatsoever. Perhaps, it’s due to the fact that I’m pretty grateful for life. You only have to hear a few stories of people fighting cancer or some life threatening condition to realize that while some are waiting to die, others are fighting to live. Is this not the tension of life?
The tension is that while some people are wasting their time in meaningless pursuits, someone is trying to suck every last drop of meaning from their pursuits. The thought that one person hates their life enough to take it, and in the same city another person would give anything just to have one more day. We live in the tension.
And yet I can’t seem to forget that Jesus was the one who said he came to bring life and bring it to the fullest. I can’t help but wonder what we miss in the present while spending our time focusing on the future. One day I want to be with Jesus in heaven but right now I want to be with Jesus on earth. I want to experience him in my everyday life. I want to see heaven crash into earth; to watch in wonder as the presence of Jesus transforms the dark corners of the world and the deepest places of people’s hearts.
I don’t want to focus on death when I’ve been given the gift of life. These days go by so quickly and we aren’t promised tomorrow, but we have today. A few summers ago I got the opportunity to work at a community church in Kitchener, Ontario. During my summer I got the opportunity to hang out with a very special family. Megan and Nathan Maier have 4 beautiful boys, all full of life and spunk and each with their own unique personality. The second oldest is Leif, who is 5. The Maier’s just found out that Leif has an inoperable brain tumour. My heart breaks at the thought of sweet little Leif and his family having to face this. I ask you to pray for healing for Leif, for strength and extra grace for him and his family. I don’t understand why these things happen but I know Jesus is fully present with this family, and with this little boy. They don’t have to wait to experience His presence, He is with them right now. We plead for a full life for Leif, for time to run and play and learn and grow, but more than this we plead that Jesus would be so very real to Leif and to his family. May they know the strong and healing presence of Jesus in life, despite what may happen.
Jesus invades our darkest moments, hears our deepest cries and His presence fills the emptiest of spaces. While some are begging for more of life, others are wishing it away.
May you spend today living life to the full, because Jesus came so that you can. So do it today, because today is the gift we have been given.