Tuesday, January 4, 2011

From the Land of The Dying to the Land of The Living

 I thought I'd launch my New Year with a powerful idea that hit me last year. It happened a few days before my Master's thesis defense in late April. Looking at my hand one morning, a thought struck me:

I'm dying.

   The words of 2 Corinthians 4:16 came almost immediately to mind: "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day." A few days before that realisation, I had listened to a sermon from 2004 by John Neufeld, Senior Pastor at Willingdon Church where I attend. Titled "The Precious Event of A Believer's Death," it covered the death of Abraham's wife Sarah in Genesis 23. Contemplating his sermon, it finally sank in with more than an intellectual understanding - this world really isn't the Land of the Living; it's the Land of the Dying. From the moment of my conception, the clock ticks away and I'm only growing older, not younger, till the time of my death. For all our social, scientific and technological advancement, the reality of our mortality cannot be we smoothed away by any amount of anti-aging cream. Pastor John went on to point out that The Land of the Living is occupied by those believers who have taken the final journey through death, welcomed with rejoicing by God and all who have gone on before.

  Contemplating that, I followed it to its conclusion:

    If this is the Land of The Dying, I'm not going to be around for very long.

   That made a lot of sense. Even if I made it through another 50 or 60 years, that's still insignificant in comparison to eternity that is waiting on the other side. I had read plenty in the Bible about the fleeting nature of this life and heard it preached from the pulpit, but I think the implications still remained somewhat intellectual and vague until I heard that sermon. Having it finally sink in, I was left with a question:

What do I want to do with my time here?

    I thought long and hard about the lat 5 years, and all the grand plans and swelling ambitions that I had constructed for myself after having finished my undergraduate degree. So much had changed along the way after starting out with an almighty roar in hot pursuit of high achievement. God had redirected my obsession with Aerospace Engineering to do a graduate research program that I accepted as a last resort, at a university that was my last choice, in a city that I did not have any plans to move to. Along the way, I have met so many wonderful people, had my perspectives changed, assumptions devastated, grown and changed tremendously, experienced trial and heartbreak...

   So what do I want to do? I know what I don't want to happen. In my final moments before I take the road that exits this life, I don't want to look back and just see a diligent student who did well in school, got a high GPA and academic accomplishments to boot. I don't want my life to become about a great professional who always put the project first. I don't want to just see an hard-working engineer who wrote great code and built impressive systems; no one will remember either of them. I won't want to see my possessions, certificates or accolades that only accumulate ever thicker layers of dust; none of them will give me any comfort at that time. An impressive resume will become meaningless, for no one will ever use it to make a hiring decision ever again. Any money (or lack of it) that I accumulate will have an exchange rate of zero on the other side of this life.

   I want to pour my life out to the very last drop for that which will bring life to people's hearts. I want to tell them about the Living One, the Christ without whom there is no Land of The Living. Loving people has become very important to me. I want to love those around me with all the risks that come with it, even if I get hurt in the process; the hurt won't matter anymore on the other side of this life. What good is it being a stingy miser with my words, affection and actions? Who am I saving all my capacity for love, anyway? Am I planning to hoard it carefully and spend it all on those whom I meet when I cross over into the Land of The Living? That's so stupid!

   I have come to the conclusion that as great as it is that we are able to develop innovative technology, building better systems of any kind will not ultimately change the condition of the human heart, out of which all things flow. Neither will the approach of taking power out of the hands of the few and putting it into the hands of the people; it is pointless if the heart doesn't recognize the One who possesses and bestows all power, understand what true power is, and how to wield it. Without bringing people to the knowledge of the Living One, the Giver of Life, I have come to the belief that every other accomplishment in my life is ultimately meaningless.

   I want to shine the light of the Living One in the Land of the Dying, so that those who are dead will see His light and come along with me on my journey with Him to the Land of the Living. If I die in the process, I'll get there all the faster.

  This post is dedicated to my dear friend Julia, who brought her grandmother and grandfather to know and accept Christ, shortly before her grandmother passed on a few days ago.

- The Wisdom Seeker