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A Ripened Olive

“Pass through this brief patch of time in harmony with nature, and come to your final resting place gracefully, just as a ripened olive might drop, praising the earth that nourished it and grateful to the tree that gave it growth.” —MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 4.48.2

I struggle against nature. I want to live forever, in this body (assuming it can be kept healthy and vibrant). The struggle against evil and death is not at odds with harmony with nature and acceptance that we are but dust and to dust we shall return. God ‘set[s] before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction… choose life in order that you may live.’

As a believer in Jesus and his mission, I find many of my fellow Christian travelers seeming to be eager for death, in that they would prefer being in heaven than living in this vale of tears. Of course, Paul himself struggled with this question:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

For Paul, the question comes down to what is best for those he’s around, and he comes down on the ‘remain’ side very strongly. Perhaps here is a clue. The ‘why’ behind my choice to stay is important. If it is to stay alive for selfish reasons, that may not be worth the tears. To remain for the benefit of others, moment-by-moment, is a worthy goal.

January 19, 2017

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