grave stoneHave you ever noticed that a difficult problem suddenly becomes easier when you can see what you are trying to accomplish and then how you can work backward from there?

Take your own life for example. The normal way to view life is starting from the past and present and attempt to plan into the future. You know: “This is where I have been in the past. I am here right now. I think I am headed in a certain direction in the future.” Perhaps a more productive way of setting a life-direction is to visualize what and where you want to be in the future and work back through the steps to what and where you are now.

A very sobering, but I think very helpful way of doing this, is to visualize your own funeral. Few of us have any accurate idea of how or when we will die, but for the purposes of the exercise, just assume you will live a reasonably long life. Let’s say that you are also able to achieve at least some of your life’s goals. Now seat yourself as an invisible guest at this gathering in your memory. What is being said about you? Who is in attendance? What are the mourners thinking and feeling?

Someone, perhaps a minister, is summarizing your life. Not only are the main facts of birthdate, education, career, marriage and family being shared, but what kind of person you were. Maybe there are tears. A final prayer is said. The people disperse to continue their own lives before your remains are laid to rest.

From the perspective of the grave, what meaning and achievement would your life have? Were you deeply loved and respected? Did your life make a difference for anyone beyond yourself? What will happen to you from this point on? Is there heaven? Judgment? Darkness?

It is difficult to picture all the details, but on the whole, seeing things from the perspective of the grave has a way of bringing the present into sharp focus. This perspective also brings up certain practical questions, such as: “Do I want to be deeply appreciated by those around me? If so, what am I doing now to make that possible? How can I show my love to family and my commitment to friends in ways which will assure them that I care?”

If you want to make a difference with your life, the perspective of the grave compels you to ponder who you are helping now. Are you contributing because it is required, because it helps you, because it looks good or because you really do care about helping people live better?

What about beyond the grave? The Bible is very clear when it teaches that eternity is decided in this present life. Again, if it is heaven you desire that is attained by some definite choices in the “here and now”. The primary choice is to desire God and to come to him through his son Jesus. Followup choices might include deciding what steps you should take to make knowing God a growing reality for the rest of your life.

Most of us live as though death is some distance away. We count on many years of doing our thing, whatever that may be. The approach of death sometimes comes as a shock and we find too late that we have been living pretty much for ourselves, touching no one around us very deeply or sacrificially. Then death becomes something to fear wehn we realize we must account to the God we have largely ignored.

The view from the grave brings our priorities into sharp focus. It shows the outcome of our plans and loyalties. It predicts the results of our relationships. The time to get this perspective is now. The time to chart the steps toward a meaningful life-purpose is now. The time to make our peace with God through Jesus and enter into relationship with him is now.

Michael Bogart