I've been seeing here and there that lots of folks are reading or involved in a program at church based on the book One Month to Live. I haven't read it or been involved in it in any way so in what follows I'm not so much commenting on the book or program itself as much as I am making an observation on the way these kinds of discussions usually go, by that I mean discussions on how you would change your life if you knew you were going to die soon.
At the risk of sounding like a kranky, contrarian, curmudgeon, may I say that I think most of those discussions, though well intended and hitting some important points often miss the mark.
Also, if I may say a personal word to my friends who are reading this. I hope I don't come across as mister morbid in my blogging since most of my posts these days are about cancer and dying. It's just that this is obviously the dominating circumstance of my life right now. But I want to assure you that, though I think often about death and dying I am in no way giving up the fight for life, nor am I resigned to a "very-soon" death. Though my hope is not in doctors and statistics, I have even seen a bit of chatter lately to the effect that some of the more grim statistics for those in my condition are from five or more years ago, and that as new stats become available for those diagnosed more recently, we may find that the five year survival rate is higher than is usually reported. So I have lots of hope and optimism, but I am realistic - I realistically could live a few months to many, many years, and I'm gradually learning to not worry so much about that as it is ultimately in God's hands. I am learning to live each day as if it has enough trouble of it's own and not worry so much about tomorrow - that's almost biblical, I think.
So having said that, getting back to the topic I started with, here's my gripe about these discussions on how you would change if you knew you were soon to die. Most of them focus on how you can change your life now so that when it comes time to die you won't have any regrets. This approach largely forgets the gospel.
Granted, it's not all bad. I think often these days about how I will be remembered, mostly by my wife and children, but also to a certain degree about how others outside the family will remember me. I do think about the legacy I will leave, so I do applaud anyone who begins that kind of self-evaluation process and makes the necessary changes that would entail.
But the bottom line is this - if I am to face my own death with no regrets, the only way I can do so is if my sins are atoned for, and sins are only atoned for by the work of Christ. From what I can tell, most of these "what if you only had a short time to live" discussions revolve around things you must do to cleanse the slate and clear your conscience. Again, good stuff to do, but only in a secondary sense. If I knew I was going to die soon I would spend far more time reading, studying, meditating on and reflecting on all that Christ has done for me than anything else. That's the only sure way to approach your own death with no regrets.