Suck Out the Marrow
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
Henry David Thoreau
“Then he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
John 11: 43-44
I sometimes hate the way the Bible tells a perfectly good story and then leaves you hanging. So, what happened next with Lazarus? Did he just chuck his shroud and go back to life as usual? Did he pick up his staff and head out to tend the sheep? What about his sisters, Mary and Martha? Did they look at their brother differently after losing him that way? Was the whole thing just a little too creepy to handle? I guess we’ll never know.
I do know this much: Living in close proximity to death changes the way we look at life. Ordinary events carry more weight; every beautiful sight requires savoring. The voices and faces of friends and family become richer and more precious. Suddenly, simplicity feels essential—life, culled down to what truly matters. When the Grim Reaper comes close enough for us to feel his breath, our priorities change. Concern about making enough money to raise our social status, what kind of car we drive, who we know, evaporates. Now, it is more important to make time for contemplation, time to spend with people we love, to walk in the woods, watch the sunrise, and listen to the sound of rain. Life is such a miraculous gift.
Should we wait for death to draw near to take a closer look at how we spend our days? Could we, while in good health, take “time to be idle and blessed,” as Mary Oliver suggests? How would life be different if, like Thoreau, we were to live deliberately, deeply, and suck out all the marrow? Lazarus was given a second chance, and so are we every morning we open our eyes to a brand new day.
In the Spirit,