I am finding that getting older involves a lot of dying. And while I’m not that old yet (43 at the time of writing), I expect that as more time passes, it will also come with a lot more death. Obviously physical mortality will be my final end, just as it has been for everyone else, but I’m seeing there is lots more I’ll need to die to before that.
Dying to dreams. I have always been something of a dreamer. I like to look forward in time and to picture a great or noble end that is worthy of the pursuit. I have followed many of my dreams through the years and have found enjoyment and fulfillment in doing so. But as time goes by, I’m realizing that many of these dreams will never be anything more than that. Perhaps they were never realistic to begin with, or perhaps it’s just that energy will fail and time will expire long before I get to them. In either case, I’m already dying to many of those dreams. I’ll inevitably go to the grave with so many of them unfulfilled.
Dying to abilities. To be perfectly frank, I’ve often thought I am more able than I really am. There was a time when I thought I had greater talent and more gifting than is the case. I might even have dared to think I was exceptional. But as time passes, as the years creep by, I’m learning that, like most others, I’m a man of average ability. While I do have some talents, I have just as many shortcomings. While I’ve got gifting in some areas, I’ve got deficits in others. I’m dying to the notion that I’m especially able or gifted. I won’t ever be the wisest in any area, the smartest, the most capable, or the most knowledgeable.
Dying to accomplishments. There is so much I thought I would accomplish, or I could accomplish, or even that I might accomplish with the time given to me. There are so many opportunities I thought might come or opportunities I was just waiting to embrace and pursue. There are so many goals I thought I might set and reach and surpass. But, realistically, I’m coming to see that many of these accomplishments are either unrealistic or unattainable. I’ll never attain all the goals I have set for myself and, in fact, am having to die to the notion that I’ll ever achieve more than the most ordinary accomplishments.
Dying to success. As I’ve dreamed of taking on great projects, as I’ve thought so highly of my abilities, and as I’ve longed for great accomplishments, I’ve expected certain markers of success from myself. I’ve expected I’d be in line for this accolade or that invitation or the other recognition. Ten or twenty years ago I might have expressed surprise if you told me that, even by today, I’d have few significant trophies of success to decorate my walls, line my shelves, or feel smug about. I’ve had to die to such simplistic and egotistic notions of success.
Dying to perfection. As a new Christian and a young Christian, I was convinced that I’d die in a state of near-perfection. With many decades of Christian living ahead, I could easily be convinced that I’d shed my sin like a snake sheds its skin. But, while life really does lead to greater holiness, it also leads to a deeper understanding of depravity. Even as I mine great depths of sin and put it to death, I become aware of deeper, more difficult veins of sin that remain. I am having to die to the notion that I’ll die perfect or even nearly perfect. Instead, I’ll die less sinful than I was, to be sure, but also far more sinful than I would have wished or imagined.
As I consider all of this death, all of this dying, I’m strangely content, strangely satisfied, strangely encouraged. None of this means I’m a failure, that I’ve left down myself or my family or my God. It just means the Lord has had other plans for me and they, too, are good. He’s given me other talents, other gifts, and led me toward quieter accomplishments and they, too, are meaningful. God made me to be who I am and God expects me to be who I am. He doesn’t need me, but he chooses to use me even as an ordinary person living out an ordinary life. Why would I want any more than that?