Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.
A friend just told me about a t-shirt he wished he had bought for me. It said: ‘If I die, someone stop my Strava.’
The fact that this friend saw the shirt and thought of yours truly says plenty about me (and my need to track my performance on life’s literal and metaphorical treadmills). You may find that more worrying than amusing.
To me, though, the shirt reveals more about the culture in which it is for sale than it does about the one who wears it. And it’s all to do with the first three words. Did you catch them?
If I die…
It’s as if there is an unspoken agreement amongst us to keep our eyes forward and our feet in motion on the treadmill. Deep down, we know we’re not going to outrun death in the end. But we tend to prefer the feeling that we’re running.
I write as someone who, at the ripe old age of 35, has attended the funerals of both closest friends and immediate family. Some were lost suddenly, others gradually. It didn’t make a difference: death surprised me. Every time.
I suspect The Teacher might actually want to buy the Strava t-shirt, if he could change the first word to When. It might be a way of provoking us to consider the certainty and mystery of death, and the brutal question marks it appoints over every life.
The Teacher considers these questions for us. Is everything I am living for totally pointless (3:19)? Who will remember me anyway (2:16)? Might death in some way be a mercy from our suffering (4:2)? And what, or who, comes after it (9:1)?
For those of us who call ourselves Christians, we are ready to go first in asking – and answering – those kinds of questions. Not only because the one we follow wept when death claimed his friend. But because the death of the one we follow is the reason we follow him.
The Teacher wants us to sit with him in the pain and confusion of death. If we can do that, we might discover a new kind of empathy for the person on the treadmill next to us. And we might run next to them for long enough to earn the right to ask – and answer – some of death’s questions.
You don’t even need a t-shirt.
Head of Innovation, LICC
Where do you see people running on treadmills on your frontline? Join the conversation in the comments below.