Hallelujah Highway

Celebrating the Journey

When I die…

on October 9, 2013


You have probably heard the joke that there are only 2 things every person MUST do in life: Pay Taxes and Die.   All jesting aside death is a guarantee. No matter who you are, where you live, or how much you have Death will one day come for you.

Maybe you have also enjoyed the country song by Tim McGraw, “Live Like you were Dying”. I quite enjoy it. It has a catchy tune and makes one think about living life to its fullest. Yet I think the song writer might have the notion just a tad wrong.  The song is very focused on making sure “you” don’t die before “you” get to do everything “you” always dreamed of doing. It does mention a little about trying to be a better person, but still is very much centered in the individual.

According to the “CIA Factbook,” there are approximately 6,744 deaths in the US per day. Even though death is expected and promised to all, death in our society is seen as a cutting short and a time of sorrow. We grieve when someone we know dies and we say things like, “he had so much left to live for”. We fear our own death and we fear losing love ones to it.

Last Thursday, October 3, 2013 one of those 6744 deaths belonged to a man named Chuck Smith. Chuck Smith was the pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement. Since 1965 he taught that the Bible was literal and he preached line by line, verse by verse. Yet at the same time he was more accepting of people in all shapes, sizes, incomes, stages of life and morality than most of the other churches of the 60s. He welcomed hippies, drug addicts and all those who were lost. One story I love about this man is that when he was being questioned by some of the older parishioners of his church about allowing hippies to come in barefooted and dirty, he retorted, “If because of dirty jeans we have to say to one young person, ‘I am sorry, you can’t come into church tonight, your jeans are too dirty,’ then I am in favor of getting rid of the upholstered pews. Let’s get benches or steel chairs or something we can wash off. But let’s not ever, ever, close the door to anyone because of dress or the way he looks.” (http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/smith2.htm )

He was a man who lived with a purpose of serving God and others.  And while his family will of course miss him, everyone who has been touched by his life is viewing this death a little differently than usual. We might grieve for our own loss, but we do not grieve for Chuck. I believe firmly that the minute he took his last breath on earth, he took his first breath in Heaven. I believe that when God looks at Chuck’s life he says wholeheartedly, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23). In Chuck’s obituary there should be a sense of joy. This death was not a cutting too short. This death was at the right time and instead of an ending it is rather a conclusion well crafted.   Chuck’s life while not perfect had purpose.

So now I wonder: When I die what will the world say about me? Will people say it was too soon and that I had so much left to do? That worries me.  I will die,  tomorrow is promised to no one,  but whether I die tomorrow, next year or in 40 years I ponder what my children will think of me.  I want to live a life of purpose and while my purpose may not be to preach to a congregation of thousands, I know there is a reason why I was born.

People are always searching for the meaning of life. Maybe we have the question wrong and we should be asking instead how do I make my life meaningful?

How do I make it where when I die my family and friends rejoice in having known me? How do I make sure that I will hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” to me?

I have some work to do.


Chuck Smith said frequently, “Someday you’re going to read in the paper, ‘Chuck Smith died’, that’s bad reporting. What it should say is, ‘Chuck Smith moved.’”





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