Throughout history there have been countless ideas and inventions, some have stayed with us, while others have been long abandoned. Many innovation were discarded were dangerous or stupid. Some practices have stuck around because time has proved their value to all people and places.
The medical community created many innovations throughout history to help improve your life. Consider the medical procedure called blood-letting. It was a gruesome practice used until the late 1800’s. The technique involved draining specific amounts of blood from strategic locations on the body based on the patient’s age and ailment. Cancer involved one strategy while insanity used another. The more severe the disease, the more blood was drained. Doctor prescribed the procedure, while Barbers performed the grisly task using sharp metal instruments or leeches. Yes, the same guys who trimmed your bangs drained your blood! Thankfully, modern medicine finally dismissed the practice as harmful and Fantastic Sam’s can now focus its full attention on perms and a “little taken off the top”.
Medicine is not the only progressive institution to create innovations to improve the quality of your life. Long before iPods and even CDs, 8-track tapes were designed to improve on the scratchy sound produced by records and stereo needles. 8-tracks were hyped as the technology of the future. Regrettably, I bought the hype and in my early teens I owned a dozen or so of these plastic sandwich-sized tape containers because of the “easy and convenient payment methods” of Columbia House music club. Each month I would push the “tape” into my new 8-track tape player I had to buy to play the tapes and listened to music club selections like: the Beach Boys, Elton John, Jim Croce, or Chicago. Though I felt cool to be using the latest technology; it was a frustrating way to listen to music. Once the 8-track player started it was nearly impossible to navigate back and forth between songs unless I was standing right next to my stereo. I was grateful when 8-tracks were replaced by cassettes, CDs and now I-tunes.
The Christian Church also had its fair share of bizarre and short-lived practices designed to help disciples become more like Jesus. Extreme acts of asceticism like pillar sitting, diving naked into the snow, and killing people who disagree with you are just a few of the previously accepted practices employed by those who claimed to follow Jesus for the past two millennia.
One practice you may not know about has been observed for 2000 years. On the surface, you might think its morbid and weird and you might be confused about why it has not been thrown on to history’s trash heap along with blood-letting and 8-tracks. But unlike draining blood and plastic music containers, this practice has proved useful and beneficial throughout all times and places for those who follow Jesus. The practice is called “Daily Remembering your Death”.
Why would anyone in their right mind spend any time focusing on their death? Because the fact is we are going to die and exercise, healthy eating, and cosmetic surgery cannot prevent it. Despite the latest medical advances only God knows how many days we have left on this earth. The practice of daily remembering your death will not prevent you from dying, but it ironically may help you to live. Reminding yourself of your impending death focuses priorities; can make you quicker to forgive an offense, encourage you to express your love to others, and helps you to be present to what God is doing in the moment instead of living in an imaginary future.
You may have never pondered this question, how do you practice remembering your death?
• Silently walk through a cemetery once a week
• Read Psalm 90 daily
• Write out your obituary
What could appear as a morbid habit, God can use to free you to live more joyfully. You will gain perspective on what is important and fleeting and you will learn how to love those around you because you will live in the reality that it may be your last chance to express it.
Lots of things come and go—including you. Focusing on the timeless practice of remembering your death can help you to be present to what is going on right in front of you instead of wasting a lot of time.
– Steve Nickles, M.Div.