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YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE
June 15, 2004
 
Today's eMo is a meditation on a text for this coming Sunday. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution. No further permission is necessary.

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...let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.
Luke 9:23-24

You don't die every day. You only die once. So if we're to take up our cross daily, it must not mean just the cross upon which we will eventually die -- whatever that cross will look like.

Or maybe it is that cross. Maybe that cross is the key to the rest of our lives, the lens through which we can look at them and make them meaningful. It was for Jesus: the stories about his suffering and death were the first stories people told about him. Other stories -- miracles, birth, teachings, even the stories of his resurrection -- came later. The first thing people remembered and talked about was his terrible death. They regained his life later.

That's how it is when we die. At first, those who remain behind cannot tear themselves away from the searing memory of what they saw as we struggled to leave this world. In their minds, they see us over and over again: Why did it have to be like that? they ask, again and again. Did she suffer? They remember sitting beside the bed and thinking that they couldn't go on without us. They don't begin to regain the whole of our lives until some time later, when the rawest edges of their grief have been smoothed a little by the passing of time.

And what life will they regain? What will they see when they have healed enough to remember me as I was throughout my life, not just in the last few weeks? I'm in charge of who they will remember. The kind of person I am is completely up to me. Regardless of the factors that made me what I am, I am the one who can decide what to do about them, what my governing principles will be, what my life will be for.

And if my life is only about me: my comfort, my desires, my fears, my embarrassments, my grudges, my possessions, my ambitions -- that's what they'll remember when I die. That is all I will have given them to remember. She was all about herself. I don't remember her ever really being interested in anyone else, except as they might have affected her.

Take up your cross -- in other words, don't forget that there will be one. Remember that you don't have forever, here on the earth. Remember that each interaction you have with another might be your last, and think about how you want things left. Leave people knowing you loved them and the memory of you will strengthen them for the rest of their lives.

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