Living Backwards

Its a simple fact really. A stunning fact. A fact that should shake us to the bones: We will all die someday. And yet we live most of our lives furiously pushing forward as if tomorrow has no right not to come. This week some of us were shaken out of the stupor. Something may have happened to wake you up, to make you stop, to let the cold reality sink in. Death is inevitable. This happened to me and some of my friends by the death of a young man. I personally never met him but the pain of a young and untimely death spreads like a cold fog through the hearts of friends and loved ones to all around. It weighs down on us. It says to us in an arresting voice, “Pull over. Stop and think.”

David Gibson makes a powerful point in his book Living Life Backwards, as he reflects on the words of the writer of Ecclesiastes.

“Left to our own devices, we tend to live life forward. One day follows another, and weeks turn into months and months into years. We do not know the future, but we plan and hope and dream of where we will be, and what we would like to be doing, and whom we might be with. We live forward.

Ecclesiastes teaches us to live life backward. It encourages us to take the one thing in the future that is certain—our death—and work backward from that point into all the details and decisions and heartaches of our lives, and to think about them from the perspective of the end. It is the destination that makes sense of the journey. If we know for sure where we are heading, then we can know for sure what we need to do before we get there. Ecclesiastes invites us to let the end sculpt our priorities and goals, our greatest ambitions and our strongest desires.”    

Here’s the simple fact: everything in life depends completely on the reality of death and what it leads to. Whatever is on the other side of that great dark door completely determines everything we do on this side. If there is no God, no eternity, no life, no meaning beyond, then ultimately this life and all its details mean absolutely nothing. But if there is a God, if there is eternity, if there is a life on the other side – everything in this life points and leads into that one.

The interesting thing is that often times in our culture today we live as if neither option is true. We are so entertained, so entranced with our toys, so distracted by the glitter of life today, we fall asleep at the wheel. We all live on the edge of eternity. Tomorrow owes you nothing. What happens when your heart stops? Have you spent enough time letting this reality sink in? It will probably happen in a moment when that you aren’t going to be planning on. Everything today unfolds backwards from that fact. Are you gripped and moved today by things that will last forever? Are the things that you chase after today going to mean anything on the other side?