Watching his beloved father become weakened by age and illness, Dylan Thomas lamented that “ Old age should burn and rave at close of day ” and wrote the untitled poem with the well known quote “ Do not go gentle into that good night.” In that poem, he observed the end-of- life ruminations of different people-types. “Wise men” realized that their wisdom had had no major impact (“had forked no lightning”). “Good men” perceived that “their frail deeds” might have had effect in different and better circumstance. “Wild men” had sung “the sun in flight” and regretfully learned “too late” that their time had been spent frivolously, that they had “grieved (the sun) on its way. And then, “grave men” realized in their last moments that their lives could have been brighter and gayer! His poem identifies our regretful inability to recognize purpose and find ultimate meaning or to leave some final, lasting contribution or legacy. So, he urges one to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” to struggle against becoming lost in the shuffle from life to death.
At some point, we begin to realize how transitory life is, that we have invested our lives in many ineffective efforts and lost purposes, and that, although raging against dying might encourage us to live differently, few of us will achieve anything of lasting historical significance. Those thoughts need not be depressing! Is it really important that we leave traces of ourselves on this orb? Our worldviews are significant for how we answer that question as we struggle for meaning in the material, emotional, and spiritual aspect of our lives. Is life about us and what we want, or is it about who we are meant to be?
Christ said the “work” which God recognizes and accepts is “…, that you believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:29). He taught us that our lives are not about “gaining the world” but about soul-work, about being “rich toward God” and laying up “treasure in heaven.”(Matthew 6:19-21).
The prophet Micah helps us understand God’s heart and the difference between religiosity and faith pleasing to God. “Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:6-8 (ESV)
Being “rich” toward God is not performance or practicing ritual or tradition but is possessing a repentant heart, vibrant and passionate with the passions of God. Christ told us the way to that relationship is through belief (John3). He taught us the attitudes of faith in the Beatitudes (merciful, peaceful, humble, repentant seekers of righteousness) (Matthew 5) He showed us that the practice of faith is fulfilling the moral law by loving God with all our being and our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-38) True faith is rendered from a heart that is tender toward God and humanity.
Lived in that light, we will pass on a God-purposed legacy of values, works, purposes, and hope and can confidently “ go into that good night” knowing ” that (God) rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Life continues. Its treasures are not left behind but lie ahead!
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)