Read Psalm 39 and Psalm 90. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent and is set aside to meditate on the fragility of human life and the inevitability of death. For most, death is an unwelcome thought and an even more unwelcome reality. For the psalmist, it is a source of wisdom. It brings focus on what truly matters. Death reminds us that we are not God. Whether we realize it or not, death has enormous influence over how we live. According to the psalms (here and elsewhere), those who are mindful of death are able to bend that influence toward good and loving purposes, while those who ignore death are foolish and deluded, wasting their lives.
Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises uses a reflection on death in a process for making life decisions. Deep down we make decisions based on what we love. So if I am facing a life decision, he says first to discern what choice is most reflective of my love for God and God’s love for me. He then asks how I would advise a someone else in the same situation. He then urges to me imagine what decision I would wish to have made “if I were at the moment of death. I will guide myself by this and make my decision entirely in conformity with it.” This is not death as a general concept. This is my death—the number of my days. I am going to die. When this truly “sinks in,” it can actually be a gift of great clarity, freedom, humility, and motivation.
Imagine yourself in the hour of your death. How do you wish you would have lived? What do you wish you would have done? What keeps you from living that way today? Let God’s love for you and your love for God be your only guide. What will cultivate God’s love in your life? Is there any particular decision looming in your mind and heart? How does this shed light into it? If this time of reflection leads to a resolution, offer it up in prayer for the Lord to bless and confirm it.
About the Author
Nick Chambers is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Calvary UMC