Friday, November 2, 2018
You (and Kirk Cousins) Are Going to Die
Kirk Cousins, the quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, has a sculpture outside his house with an odd purpose: it’s intended to remind him that he’s going to die.
Well, sort of.
Planning to live to 90, the quarterback has a jar of 720 stones (one for each month he intends to live) at his home. Each month, he takes a stone out of the jar and carries it with him. He told ESPN’s Tory Zawacki Roy that “every month [he’s] going to take out a stone, put it in [his] pocket, and think: ‘Once this month is over, this is gone. You can’t get it back, it’s gone for good.’”
It’s only a little morbid until you remember that, as Cousins takes out the stones, he has a visual reminder—right outside his front door, no less—that his time on Earth is getting shorter and shorter. That’s really morbid.
But it’s also religious. It’s an idea that came to Cousins from a Bible teacher, in response to Psalm 90:12: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” This verse, Cousins says, is “about the importance of leaving a mark and making a deposit in people’s lives in a way that matters. In other words, when you have an understanding that life is coming to an end someday, and that we only have so many days? There’s wisdom in that.”
So, my goodness. As it turns out, the stone in Cousins’ pocket isn’t actually there to remind him that he’s going to die. It’s there to remind him that his life isn’t good enough. Roy ends the article with Cousins saying, “it’s just a healthy reminder, make life about other people, invest in other people, knowing that in the end, that’s a life well-lived.” That’s not true, exactly. That’s not a healthy reminder, it’s a deadly one. When I thought Cousins was reminding himself of his finitude, his mortality, and his humanness, I was on board. A stone like that would be a constant reminder that I needed a savior! I was ready to get the stones set up at my front door, too.
But this? A stone that reminds me every day that I’m leaving a legacy? A stone that makes my heart sink every time I feel it? A stone that’s constantly whispering “you’re not good enough” in my ear? No thank you. That’s not healthy, that’s deadly.
Christians needn’t fear death, but not because we’re committed to living a life “well-lived.” In fact, that commitment will cause us to fear death! Like Tennessee Ernie Ford sang in “Sixteen Tons,” St. Peter don’t you call me/’cause I can’t go/I owe my soul to the company store. We will fear death as long as we’re worried that we haven’t lived our life well enough. We can’t afford that final bell to ring…we haven’t gotten our work done yet! And we will always have that worry. What we need is not a reminder in our pocket that we need to do better. We need an announcement in our ear that someone has been good enough for us.
We need to be reminded of our mortality. But not to spur us on to better lives. We need to be reminded of our mortality to force us to call out for a savior.
So by all means, figure out how long you hope to live. Put a pile of stones outside your house. Carry one of the stones in your pocket. Take note of how little time you have left. But at the end of each day, note that you have, once again, failed to save yourself. But then, remember the Good News: our God didn’t wait for us to live a life well-lived. He sent his son, Jesus Christ, to not only live that life, but to give it to us.
Yes, you will die. But, on account of Christ’s life—not yours—you will live forever.