“When you die, die like I am planning to die. Empty. It’s finished,” -Dr. Myles Munroe
This past week, my brother Gerald informed me of a news report that broke my heart: one of my greatest heroes and biggest personal influences, Dr. Myles Munroe, is dead. According to this ABC News report, Dr. Munroe, his wife, and seven others were the victims of a fatal plane crash while traveling via private jet to a leadership conference.
Upon hearing this news, I recalled a childhood memory of listening to Dr. Munroe utter the following words:
“Ideas are more powerful than death. Death can never kill an idea. You can kill a man, but you can’t destroy his ideas. Ideas outlive men.”
Dr. Munroe’s insights have so deeply penetrated my life that I will forever feel a certain debt towards him in spite of his absence.
Having a father who is a Pastor, I grew up in the Church hearing lots of preachers, politicians, missionaries, and motivational speakers give various kinds of talks on how to live better lives, how to know right from wrong, how to develop moral character, how to save our country, etc. Like many kids who grow up in church, I dismissed most of these talks as boring and I became very effective at tuning them out. Myles was one of the first speakers to make me stop and listen voluntarily. He was one of the first people that had me begging to go to church just so I could listen to him speak. He was one of the first people to help me shift my thinking from “how I should live” to “why I should live.” He was one of the first people to wake me up to the idea that the reason for my existence is so much bigger than becoming really good at showing up to church services, going through my religious routines, and mindlessly doing the right things without contemplating my purpose, my passions, and my potential for a personal legacy that went beyond the scope of my individual concerns. The notion that I could change the world, that I, myself, could be transformed by new ways of seeing, that I could live a truly purpose-driven life was lost on me before encountering Dr. Munroe. I’m sure there were many others who tried to get similar messages into my head, but Dr. Munroe was the one who succeeded at getting through to me without effort.
One of my favorite bloggers, Todd Henry, host of the Accidental Creative podcast, has a new book entitled “Die Empty.” I first heard this phrase in a talk given by Dr. Munroe a little over twenty years ago:
The wealthiest place on Earth is not the gold mines of South America or the diamond mines of South Africa. It is not the oil fields of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, or the silver mines of Central America. The wealthiest place in the world is the cemetery. It holds the treasures that people never served to humanity.
It is wealthy because buried in the cemetery are books that were never written. In the graveyard is music that no one had a chance to hear, songs that were never sung! The graveyard is filled with Magazines that were never published. The cemetery is filled with businesses that were never opened. What a tragedy!
The graveyard is filled with visions that never became realities. The cemetery is filled with poetry that no one is ever going to write. Films no one produced. Ministries no one started. Dreams never pursued. Grants and scholarships for which no one applied. The graveyard is filled with ideas that were never carried out, inventions that were never mass-produced, campaigns never run, and sermons never preached. What a wealthy place! If I could mine the cemetery, I would be a rich man.
Are you a candidate for adding wealth to the cemetery? You may be getting closer to the grave without having delivered your treasure. You still have marathons you have not run, graduate courses for which you have not enrolled, and plays you have never staged. You keep procrastinating and putting off that dream. Some of you have planned to become “something” for twenty or thirty years, and you still have not done it. You are getting closer to the cemetery. Bring out of you what is on the inside of you. Do not let the cemetery take what is inside of you. Serve your gifts to the world before you get there.
I want to challenge every Kenyan to go to the cemetery and disappoint the graveyard. Die like the Apostle Paul who said I have finished my course, I have kept the faith and I have been poured out like a drink offering. There is nothing left. I am ready to die. That’s how I want to die because there is nothing else for me left to do.
When you die, die like I am planning to die. Empty. It’s finished.
On Saturday, November 8th, I gave a talk at the 2014 SFL Southern California Regional Conference about the relationship between self-knowledge and personal freedom.
Saturday, November 8th was by birthday.
When I was asked to speak, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes” because I knew there was nothing I would rather be doing on my big day than the kind of work I genuinely feel born to do.
For me, the greatest birthday gift was not the chance to merely celebrate the fact of my existence, but rather the opportunity to embody and express my very reason for being here. The living out of one’s purpose, in my opinion, is the ultimate party.
And yet, as passionate as I feel about living a purpose-driven, mission-minded life, I would have never began to think this way were it not for the influence of Dr. Myles Munroe. After many years, his words still ring loudly in my soul and it takes no effort to call them to mind: “the root of man’s frustrations is his misconception of self.”
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon observed, “It is better to go to a funeral than to a party because that is where everyone will end up. Everyone who is alive should take this to heart!”
As I flew home from our Praxis closing seminar a couple of days ago, I wondered to myself, “If this were my last day, would I die empty or would most of my creative ideas and deepest convictions go to the grave with me?”
Dr. Munroe was fond of saying “The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose.” Dr. Munroe did not escape death, but by living fully and dying empty he avoided tragedy. May we all find our own way of doing the same.