The most recent study weekend of my ordination training, was one of the most useful encountered so far as it focused on our future ministry with the dying and bereaved. But as part of the weekend, a reflective session encouraged us to consider our own mortality; what in life invites us to think about own own mortality?
We were offered some optional exercises that could have involved starting to write our will, or considering what we might put in a memory box about ourselves for a child or grandchild, or consider what we might write in an obituary about ourselves.
I found I couldn’t even consider doing any of them, alone. That is without my husband to talk them through with. What follows was what I did write, which probably also reflects a little of what I’ve discussing with my spiritual director recently about self-esteem:
We are not simply, only, merely, the person that we think we are, but we are also who our dearest family and our friends love, with the faults and foibles we don’t care to admit, but also with the skills and gifts we take for granted, attributes and beauty we simply don’t see in ourselves. To recognise our own mortality fully, do we not need to understand ourselves as others see us?
Surely we need to be realistic about the impact our death would have on those around us, both in the small practical day-to-day matters of life, and in the ‘me’-sized space that we would leave behind, a space that – depending on our view of ourselves – might be far larger, or perhaps rather smaller, than the one we tend to think we occupy.
How is the picture of ourselves enlarged, or diminished, when we place this process of creating a realistic picture of ourselves, in the light of Christ, and our relationship with God?
God sees all of us, inside and out, who we have been, who we are, and who we will be at the time of our death. Only he sees us perfectly, and has done from the first moment of our existence (Psalm 139:1-18).
Jesus has taken the journey of our mortality before, and for, us. He did the ordinary things of life that we do, as well as the extra-ordinary things of his servant-hood and ministry as the Son of God, that those of us who by our faith are known as Christians seek to emulate despite our weakness and humanity. These are things we read of in Gospels, the stories of Jesus doings in life, the good news of the impact his life had on the those he encountered in life, in death, and after his resurrection.
So when we’re asked to consider our own mortality, the fact that we will die, what we are being asked to consider is what will be the gospel of our own lives?