Two weeks ago, I watched The Book Thief with my mother. I’ve since noticed that a number of my friends have watched the film in the past few weeks – at least that’s what social media has led me to believe.
It was an excellent film. I immediately bought the book. And then I made a mental note to name my daughter Leisel, after the story’s protagonist; brought to life in film by Sophie Nélisse. Such was her inspiring courage and bravery that I would be honoured for my descendants to carry her, if in name only.
The character of Leisel resonated with me.
“Words are life, Liesel. All those pages, they’re for you to fill.” – Max Vandenburg, ‘The Book Thief’ (film)
Leisel is a storyteller. And since I fancy myself likewise, I feel like she was my Hollywood representation. Sans the Hitler’s Youth uniform, of course…
The film left me with a greater sense of mortality.
The film (and book) are narrated by Death – the personified sceptre of human mortality.
“One small fact: you are going to die. Despite every effort, no one lives forever. Sorry to be such a spoiler. My advice is when the time comes, don’t panic. It doesn’t seem to help.” – Death, opening lines of ‘The Book Thief’ (film)
So that’s that then. I’m going to die.
But as a Christian, I’d like my life to count for more than just the days on a calendar, the ticks on a clock, counting down the minutes to my appointed time.
Which leads me to this question:
If I knew when I was to die, would it change the way I wished to live in those last, fleeting moments?
If I could count the weeks, months, years or even the hours until my time on earth ended, would it change my motivation for living?
It’s a cliche question, sure. But, I believe, it’s cliche for a reason.
And it’s a cliche question that I, personally have never answered. At least not as honestly as it should be answered.
Would I live differently if I was aware that Death followed quickly at my heels? Yes. I certainly would.
I would live with a greater urgency to make my life all that it should be. I would spread the Gospel with the kind of fervor only befitting a dying man’s abandon.
I would neglect the desires of the flesh and seek only true communion with my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I would ready myself for eternity and make every effort to make those around me also ready.
But I don’t live like that right now.
So, it would seem that my lack of foreknowledge regarding my earthly due date has affected my dependence on eternal things.
I do not live in the constant hope of unity with my Saviour. I do not live in effectiveness for Christ.
I live with trepidation befitting one who cares too much of what the world may think of my convictions.
In truth, I do not know when I shall pass from this life to eternal life.
And rather than causing me to embrace complacency, that should impress upon me a greater sense of immediacy.
I do not know whether the sand in my hour glass might be trickling to its end in these very moments as I pen these words.
What will my legacy to this world be?
I have kept many journals. Will these pages bring posthumous comfort to those who are left behind. Will I be remembered like the great Anne Frank?
I would love to say that my words would have that power of longevity.
But quite simply, that is not good enough.
I do not live in hiding, threatened by war or plagued by pestilence, malnutrition or otherwise. At least, not in a physical sense.
My flesh is not suffering, but my spirit is dying.
My spirit is in hiding. My spirit is threatened by an ever-raging war between Good and Evil. My spirit is plagued by disease and malnutrition.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)
How would I live if I truly recognised the dwindling condition of my spiritual health? How would I live if I realised the constant presence of spiritual battle?
I would make God my daily priority. I would commune with Him constantly, knowing that it is from Him that I draw my strength.
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.” – Psalm 28:7 (NIV)
This spiritual battle, as I currently stand, I am losing.
If I were to live with assurance that my next breath would meet my fatal end, I would live with greater consequence.
“In my job, I’m always seeing humans at their best, and their worst. I see their ugliness, and their beauty. And I wonder how the same thing can be both.” – Death, ‘The Book Thief’ (film)
I want to live a life that is spiritually beautiful, counting each moment as if it were my last. To do so, I must see God as ever my priority, to the detriment of all else that would distract me from living for Him with conviction.