Wow! We’re all going to die. Isn’t that funny? Life in three lines.

What is the meaning of life in three sentences?

If your assignment was to sum up life in a few short words or phrases, what would they be?

There is an old trope that every minister only has one sermon, a common theme that the preacher comes back to repeatedly. My friend, Julia, told me once that hers was, “Life is weirder, harder, and better than you think.” For a long time, mine felt like the title of a comedic musical I saw: “I Love you. You’re Perfect. Now Change.”

What would yours be? Are there key experiences or lessons that deeply shape your sense of what it means to be alive and do it well?

Lately, I find myself coming back to three themes in my prayer, spiritual life, and preaching.

Wow! We’re All Going to Die. Isn’t that Funny? These are usually separate ideas and not intended to form one sentence, but it works that way, too.

Wow!

Life is big, beautiful, out of your control, and mysterious.

When I was a young child, I remember standing in the backyard with my dad, looking at the rings of Saturn through a telescope. I couldn’t believe we were seeing this distant planet with our own eyes. This magical place I had only seen in photos and drawings was right there with me. Wow!

You’ve had that feeling at some point.

Maybe it was the moment you first held your child and felt the breath move though their tiny body against yours. Or perhaps you’ve been overwhelmed staring up at a starry sky in the darkest place you can find. You’ve felt that rush move through your skin right when the music swells in just the right way (is there a name for that?).

Awe makes us feel gloriously small, part of something vast and wonderful, and grateful all at the same time. It’s the feeling we try to explain with words that never seem to fully do the job.

Maybe you feel like you’re in a state of awe deficit. In the routine of alarm clock, commuter traffic, office desk, commuter traffic, bill pay, laundry, sleep – it can be easy to miss “wow.” Each drop of rain that falls today was here when dinosaurs moved across the earth. Most of your body is made up of exploded dead stars. Half the atoms that form you likely came from another galaxy! Trees communicate with each other. These, and a thousand other amazing things beyond our full understanding and control, happen every second of every day.

Life is amazing, big, magical, and beyond our full comprehension or control. All the time. Wow!

We’re All Going to Die

One of the greatest blessings of my current work is my proximity to death. It is one of the universal human experiences and the ultimate perspective enforcer. There is no way to understand being alive without it. In my experience, the people closest to death, dying people, are often the most comfortable person in the room with death itself.

Far from morbid, remembering that you are going to die is a call to love life deeply while you have it.

There will be a finite number of everything I encounter. Not a number I know yet, but a number. How many cups of good coffee will I have? How many sunrises? How many times will my children fall asleep on my shoulder (a number I can already see dwindling as they get older)? How many times will someone hold my hands? How many nights in a warm bed? How many times will someone say, “I love you.” Death tells me to wake up, hear words of love with grace and speak them often, breathe and see the people in front of me as finite and fragile creatures. It says to love as much as I can while I can.

Isn’t That Funny?

Life can also be silly, strange, and a lot of fun. We stumble all the time, and everyone makes mistakes. Grace and humor are completely necessary. Without them, life is dour and orthodox.

Laughter and spirituality aren’t connected enough. Not that building a meaningful life isn’t serious business. It is, but that serious business includes experiencing joy, and lots of it.

Where do you find it? My kids remind me when they show up in costumes and don’t think they need a reason. They do it by dancing and singing almost any time music plays. Find the places and people that remind you how weird and hilarious life can be. If you pay attention long enough, each day has an “isn’t-that-funny” moment.

Now, what about you? If you had the assignment of delivering a three-line commencement address or sermon in three phrases, what would they be?

Wow! We’re all going to die. Isn’t that funny?

 

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