Ready to LiveDecember 5, 2013 - 5:00 am
“Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.’”—Genesis 46:30
This Torah portion for this week is Vayigash, which means “and he approached,” from Genesis 44:18–47:27, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 37:15–28.
If you knew that you only had one month to live, what would you do to make what’s left of your life really matter?
This is the question Pastors Kerry and Chris Shook asked their congregants and then wrote a book about the answers they received in their bestseller, One Month to Live. The Shooks posed a challenge: Live life like you only have one month to live. The changes that people made and the priorities that came to the surface were fascinating, enlightening, and life-changing.
It began in the autumn of 2007 when Kerry Shook ran into Jimmy Dowden, an old friend and congregant. Mr. Dowden told Pastor Shook that his prostate cancer had spread and that doctors had given him about six months to live. “We’ll pray for you,” Pastor Shook told Mr. Dowden. “You don’t need to pray for me,” Mr. Dowden replied. “I need to pray for you and the congregation. I’m not distracted by life anymore. I know exactly what I need to do.”
From that one exchange evolved a huge movement that today has literally involved thousands of churches. People from all over are taking the challenge of seeing the present month as their last. In the course of 30 days, people are taking huge steps, like changing careers or mending old rifts — the types of actions that usually are put off indefinitely, until it’s too late. The Shooks encourage people to live like “someday” is today, and by doing so, people are able to live life in a way that on their final day, they will have no regrets and can go in peace.
In this week’s reading Jacob made this startling declaration: “Now I am ready to die . . .” Who among us could make such a claim? Is anyone ever ready to die?
Jacob teaches us that yes, we can be ready. Jacob said this just after he had seen Joseph, who he had thought dead for 22 years. Upon seeing Joseph and realizing that his son was still righteous and obedient to God, Jacob understood that he had accomplished everything he needed to in life. He had brought 12 God-fearing sons into the world and now they were united. Jacob’s life was complete. He may not have done everything that he had wanted to do in life, but Jacob had succeeded in doing everything that truly mattered to him.
This week, try the following exercise: write out what you would do if you knew that you had only thirty days to live, or better yet, take the challenge and actually live your list. It’s when we are “ready to die,” that we are truly ready to live!