It’s been quite a month. Two notable deaths, and the remembrance of one notable birth. Two notable men gone. Kim Jong II. He was the dictator/god of North Korea, a man from the East. Christopher Hitchens was the iconic leader of the emerging atheist class of the West. Neither one died because they were penniless. They died because they ran out of time.
They both publically declared that belief in God was nothing more than second rate superstition. Unlike that great theologian, Jay Leno, who recently said, “With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?”
The North Korean dictator was an expert in information “black out”. Kim Jong II, dead at 69, was noted for his oppression of the Christian faith, which in contrast, is vibrant among his South Korean neighbors. He no longer has power to command, nor is he in any position to control.
Christopher Hitchens, dead at 62, was the eloquent spokesman and debater for the nonexistence of God. He wanted to make sure that no one would suspect he would ever change his atheistic mindset. He said that if some heard him changing his mind on his deathbed it would simply be the ranting of a “half-demented” man racked by pain and confused with drugs. As he reasoned (or rationalized), “What kind of designer or creator only chooses to ‘reveal’ himself to semi-stupefied peasants in the desert regions?” Nice.
I suggest to you that the birth we celebrate this month casts a mighty shadow over those two deaths. But it goes even farther. That birth projects light over billions of lives. No matter what your spiritual persuasion, His words are reminders of the value of life. Are you turning those minutes you are being given into moments?
He reminds us to engage reality. Healthy spirituality roots us in reality instead of some idealized version of how life should be or ought to be. It’s impossible to work towards what could be without seeing things as they actually are. Healthy spirituality keeps our feet firmly planted on the ground of this world and equips us to engage the world as it IS, (with all its flaws and mysteries).
He also empowers us to love this world. Our love for this world is the litmus test of our love for God. At the end of the day, a spirituality that is worth its salt empowers us to fall more deeply in love with this world. Any spirituality that neglects this world in favor of the next tends to create a kind of disincarnated and disembodied life, which ultimately denies God.
So what we have here is a contrast between minutes and moments. Minutes you lose. Moments you initiate. You don’t make minutes. They come to you and you use them in the way you choose. They are taken from us. Moments don’t come to you like minutes. They must be made, and nobody is better at that than you.
The problem is that we often don’t see this until the minutes are running low. In her book, The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying, Bronnie Ware’s life was transformed by her years of working for and tending to the needs of those who had gone home to die. She was with them for the last 3 to 12 weeks of their lives. She saw phenomenal changes, along with the expected emotions.
When questioned about their regrets, common themes began to surface. I have included the top five.
1. I wish I would have had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Make moments. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that she nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. By creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I would have had the courage to express my feelings.
Suppressed feelings results in settling for a mediocre existence. Many developed illnesses related to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, speaking honestly raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
As the year comes to an end…
Take a minute To make a moment!