I went hiking with Kate and David out to Dogslaughter Falls last weekend. It’s a small waterfall near the Cumberland River. It was a tiring hike, but it was a beautiful hike. And the end of the trail was perfect. We were all a little bit warm from clambering over rocks as we approached the waterfall, when we discovered this pool of cool air churned up by the water. We followed a rock ledge around and stood, heads bent slightly to avoid hitting our heads on the overhang, behind the waterfall. It was a wonderful little chunk of creation.
It was a soak-up-life kind of moment.
I read Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom the week that I was home. It was a library book sale find (I have only recently discovered the pleasures of library book sales – when I was a kid I thought of them as being full of a bunch of old books that nobody wanted – now I see them as an opportunity to scrounge up some really good writing for a nice price.)
It was a very sweet story with quite a few choice nuggets about life worth mulling over. However, there was one particular phrase that really caught my eye and captured my attention. And it was this quote from Morrie:
“The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”
When I read this my little brain light bulbs started flashing “Hello? Hello? Learning how to die? We’ve hear this phrase before!” And I had. In a song by Jon Foreman titled “Learning how to die“. This phrase is what I’m going to call a thinker. When I listened to this song, it really got me thinking. I had never heard anyone refer to learning how to die before. First off, it’s something that people just do. They don’t really learn how to do it. After all, who wants to learn how to die?
But the song is saying something a bit different than our friend Morrie (who was dying when he said this) was. Morrie wasn’t just talking about learning how to die, he was talking about learning how to live.
“Learn how to live and you’ll know how to die; learn how to die, and you’ll know how to live.”
I had to read over these lines a few times. I had my morsel. And now I had to roll it around in my mouth for a while to be sure of the flavor.
Once in a while I get this really fantastic, floating on air, I-just-discovered-this-really-awesome-idea kind of feeling. And by awesome I mean awe-inspiring. It’s at moments like these that I like to go for a walk outside. Nature is where God usually helps me discover my ultimate truths. So after I read this, I went for a walk.
And my walk, thanks to Morrie and Mitch, quickly became a soak-up-life kind of moment.
Here is what I gleaned out of this: When you’re dying you realize what’s important in life. But people don’t like to think about dying. They like to think that it’s way in the future. And for a large chunk of the population, it probably is. But it might not be. Why not live every day with the knowledge that you’re going to die (and that’s okay!)? Why not see everything around you with the eyes of someone who isn’t going to be a permanent resident of this planet?
For me that means really soaking up life, instead of just walking through it. I tend to get into a zone and not pay any attention to my surroundings. On my way home on the plane last month, I was suddenly struck by the idea that I hadn’t even looked at the person who was sitting next to me.
“Gee,” I thought to myself, “I could be sitting next to someone I know and never realize it.” So I looked over (in a non-creepy, non-I’m-staring-at-you sort of way). And, yes, predictably, it wasn’t anyone I knew. But why wouldn’t I look at someone who was sitting an armrest’s width distance from me?
In order to really live, to really soak up life, I need to look it in the face!
And more than that.
In order to really live, to really soak up life, I need be thankful for every breath I breathe, for every tree that I walk under, for every person I meet, for every cloud that crosses my sunshine. I need to awaken to every day thankful to be alive, in this place, at this moment.
Yes, sometimes there is going to be rain when I want sunshine. And sometimes there’s going to be sunshine when I want rain. But that’s okay.
I’m adopting a new life motto (thank you Psalm 118):
This is the day the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice in it and be glad.
I was over at Camp AJ helping out with their teen retreat this weekend. And it went really well, especially when compared to last time. The kids were a lot more interested in being there, the weather was beautiful, and Erin had planned out a really nice retreat. There was a point in the day when I had some down time and I was just sitting at a picnic table overlooking the lake with a book. There were teens canoeing in the lake, and the air was peppered with shouts and laughter. There was a pleasant breeze and the trees were a gorgeous shade of green. And at that moment I thought to myself “This place is so beautiful. I’m so glad I’m here.”
So here’s to learning how to live and learning how to die.
Here’s to rejoicing in the day and being glad.
Here’s to those soak-up-life kind of moments.
I’m going to try to have as many of them as possible.