Dying Before You Die: A Reflection

Keith KettenringBible Insights, Christian Living, The Uncommon Journey

There’s an old word which, like all great words, has deep meaning. Words like this have a life of their own. It was born quietly somewhere in Japan several centuries back and grew into something powerful. Then like a great investment, it split multiple times, increasing in value far beyond its original, literal meaning. The word is Zanshin (残心).

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Meaning of Zanshin 

Literally, Zanshin means “mind with no remainder,” nothing uncontrolled or unintentional. Zanshin is a fundamental focus, where every body system is held in precise, calm alertness. Eventually it came to describe an archer’s stance after loosing an arrow or a swordsman’s fighting stance after striking. Upon executing a maneuver, Zanshin kept the warrior from losing himself.

This was directed, mindful execution of the process and positions of warfare, an instant return to readiness. 

Yet, Zanshin was not a position itself. Rather it was an essence—achieved through muscle memory and the warrior’s awareness of his own death. The Samurai warrior achieved incredible focus and fierce execution because of Zanshin. And he could achieve Zanshin because he did not consider the outcome of the battle. Winning was not the point.

Dying or not dying didn’t matter. He had already died. Only the process of battle mattered.

In a way it makes sense: why would the outcome matter?

There were only two possible outcomes: death now or death later. The Samurai warrior journey was a lifelong path with a violent end. When they signed up, they died. Samurai walked the earth as those already dead. Winning did not matter; only honor and identity mattered. 

So why the nerdy history lesson?

Zanshin & Death

Check out Romans 6:10, 11, 13: “For the death he died he died, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus…present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.”   

It seems that Paul is asking you to presume yourself as one who is already dead yet alive in Christ. So what does that mean: to have died to sin and live as instruments of righteousness? What does it mean to fight battles as if what happens (outcomes) matters little? Could you achieve a Zanshin-like Christian life by realizing our own death while focusing only on the process of communion with the Trinity?

Application to Us

Are you like me: with habitual sin, performance insecurity, or fears of not bearing fruit? What abundant life, peace, or grace might we find if we were not committed to outcomes like sinning less, performing better, or evangelizing everyone – but to dying daily yet living in communion with the Trinity?

What if you lived as if the victory was already decided? Or perhaps better, as if the victory wasn’t the point? Might this be the hope of having the Mind of Christ – a “mind with no remainder” – whose victory was in His passion, in His own death? Did Jesus walk the earth knowing that He had already died? 

How about you?

Where are you too much alive to yourself? Do you realize you are dead (& alive) already in Christ? Share your thoughts below.