We all remind ourselves of important things differently.
We buy items to commemorate the event.
We hang things on our walls.
We write a note on our hands so we don’t forget to call our mom for three weeks in a row.
I get tattoos.
In order to remind myself of things that I need to remember at all times, I get them permanently written on my body.
A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to talk about one such tattoo, on the inside of my right forearm that reads “Amor Fati.”
Literally it means, “Love of Fate.” It reminds me every second of every day that if I believe God is who he says he is, and he allows an event to happen in my life, then I’m meant to make the best of it. No matter what happens, He’s given me the gift to choice. To love Him. To follow his Son. To love my fate.
But just like that tattoo on my right forearm, I have one on my left that also faces toward me.
My Memento Mori Tattoo
It reads “Memento Mori,” which means “remember that you are mortal.”
Remember that one day, you too, shall die.
If we believe what we claim to, that we’re forgiven for our sins and are going to heaven, we also have to understand that that transition requires something.
That we die. Most of us, before we’re ready.
It is one of the very few certainties that I have in this life.
Why do I need a reminder that I’m going to die? There’s really three reasons.
1. Memento Mori Increases the Quality of my Life
Don’t get me wrong: NOT contemplating death on a regular basis is important.
It’s something I think God built into us to keep us from freaking out all the time. I can’t imagine trying to legitimize mowing my lawn when I’m worried about how and when I will die. Who cares?
But it’s a double edged sword. When we don’t contemplate death, we think we’re invincible, that we’ll last forever. Tragedy happens to other people.
Not me. I have plenty of time left.
I can live the life that I want to live, the life that God wants me to live, tomorrow.
Forgetting that you are mortal is one of Satan’s greatest deceptions. He doesn’t need to get you in a brothel, he just needs to keep you distracted.
When God provided manna in the wilderness to the Israelites, he gave a generous supply sufficient for the day, not for storage or saving for the indefinite future. In the Lord’s Prayer “Give us this day our daily bread” does not make petitions for the next weeks or the years ahead.
God enjoins trust in His Providence for the future rather than fear or anxiety about the unknown, warning “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal.” God also exhorts man not be enslaved by fear: “Do not be anxious about your life, what shall you eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on.”
Memento Mori allows me to be an essentialist, focusing on on that which truly matters: God, my family, work, service, etc.
By acknowledging this deadline, this expiration date, I’m more grateful, more present, and more liberated than I ever could be otherwise.
Less complaining, more action taking.
Less Instagramming, more time with my family.
Less podcasts, more prayer.
That’s how it plays out in my life.
For once my mind and my body are in the exact same place. Feel it. Be here. Now. It might be the last time.
I have one life to live here, on at-bat, and I want to live it out as passionately as possible for the glory of God. It’s what we should all want. And not to earn what Jesus did for us on the cross. But because of it. The way we choose to live this one, extremely short life here on Earth should be a direct response of gratitude for the undeserved grace that God has given to each and every one of us.
2. Jesus died for me. It was his gift to me. I should remember it always.
Memento Mori is a stoic philosophy of the Greeks, stoics not known for their faith in God. But the more I read about this idea, the more I realized that this was a concept that I already knew, and knew well, even if I struggled to put it into practice.
When I was in high school a friend fell off the back of his brother’s truck and almost died. A former star athlete and top student, he’d never again regain full capacity of his body and mind. But, after the accident, he transformed from being one of the biggest bullies in the school to one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. He gave his life to Jesus Christ not long after the accident as well.
It’s a tale as old as time, an ageless story across all cultures: somebody has a near-death experience, takes stock, and decides to make the most of this life.
I tell you this today because I don’t want you to go through something like that to have a Memento Mori perspective.
With a reminder of my death, I’m also reminded of the one who died for me.
There’s this verse in John where Jesus is talking to Martha after Lazarus has died and he says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” I do.
3. Memento Mori Reminds Me of What Comes Next
Just as I mentioned earlier, it’d be hard to care about mowing when you know death looms, but it’s also hard to care about all of the negative trivialities in life.
Compared to God’s grace, who cares if that guy cut me off in traffic? Who cares that we got ripped off by the cable company? Who cares about that last celebrity tweet?
Not me. Not any more.
Inherent in death is where we go next, and if you believe as I believe, that Jesus Christ died for your sins and is your savior, then that means going to heaven.
Every day I am reminded how incredible my life is, how Jesus died for my sins, and how because of that I don’t have to earn going to heaven.
So when death comes, I’ll be grateful.