“Help us to live as those who are prepared to die”—funeral prayer

“My soul is prepared. How’s yours?”—line from “Indiana Jones and the Lsst Crusade”

Not too long ago I had a piece of church mail that needed to be taken to the counter at the post office. Ahead of me in line was a woman about my age, dressed clownishly, with the most prominent ridiculous feature being huge white-framed sunglasses (which she continued to wear inside) that made her face look like a bug’s. Given her attire, I expected her to act foolishly. (Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.)

Unfortunately, my sense of how she would behave proved correct. She was trying to mail a huge wreath with a back-to-school theme. But she had come to the PO without a box for it, and there was nothing sold by the USPS that it would fit in. She also had brought no bubble wrap. The postal clerk couldn’t give the woman a sense of the cost of mailing, because the object wasn’t in a box,  and the woman had no idea of the ZIP code it was going to. Finally, the very patient clerk suggested that the woman try a particular box while I was helped with my envelope. When I left, the woman was crouching on the floor trying to fit her big wreath in the box.

In stark contrast is the preparation of an Olympic athlete like Michael Phelps. In a piece on NBC, his coach told how he would sometimes hide Phelps’ goggles or fill them with water or make him almost late for a practice or event or have him rush around and not have dinner. All this was to make sure Phelps was mentally prepared for anything. And indeed, what happened in one of Phelps’ races in Beijing at the last Olympics? His goggles filled with water. But he still won, because he had an alternative way of knowing where he was.

One difference between the fool and the wise (to use biblical categories), the champion and the clown, is their preparation. They take responsibility for what they do and who they are, in everything from the smallest activity like mailing a package to the most significant, like being in a relationship or raising children. And they make sure that they are ready to die, that their affairs are in the best order they can be, that the most important relationship of all is attended to.

As Jesus said, “Therefore…be ready…” (Matthew 24:44).

© 2012 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.