When our oldest son is born, friends come to the hospital, ask to hold the baby, comment on how glad they are that Graham looks like his mother. As they are leaving, several say something like, "Don't blink, because that's how long it will be before he's off to college."
At the time I thought it was a stupid comment. But they were right. My son is a lawyer working on public policy who comes to our house for dinner once a week.
I find this hard to believe.
I feel like he started crawling a month ago, went to kindergarten a week ago, got his driver's license a few days ago.
Seems like only yesterday he was lying on the couch throwing food and making silly noises.
Well, actually, that was yesterday.
The great American poet Dr. Seuss writes,
How did it get so late so soon,
It's night before it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?
It gets so late so soon. We know that life is short and yet we spend our lives as if we have nine of them to spend. We give too many of our days to not nearly enough. We act as if life is always about to begin.
The real part of our life is on the way, but first we have to get past a couple of things, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid, a responsibility to take care of. Then life will begin.
We recognize how wrong it is to throw a life away, and yet don't see how sinful it is to do the same thing an hour at a time. Life is wasted hour by hour, day by day, in a thousand, small uncaring ways.
My wife and I are in Washington, D.C., on a day that makes summer in Atlanta seem balmy by comparison. We finish a tour of the Capitol building and walk the length of the mall. We've either gone two or ten miles depending on which one of us you asked and at what moment. I say, "Carol, we could go to the National Archives and be moved by the Declaration of Independence, the National Portrait Gallery to be inspired by great Americans, or McDonald's to buy a couple of Cokes?"
The Cokes were really cold. We know that feeling of making a poor choice, but not caring. We know that feeling well.
- But life is too short to skip the Declaration of Independence.
- Life is too short for fantasy baseball, computer solitaire or The Bachelor.
- Life is too short for microwave pizza, bad novels, or having the cleanest gutters on the block.
- Life is too short to keep waiting for a vacation, a special occasion, or a better day.
- Life is too short to sit around moping, choosing despair, worrying what people think.
- Life is too short to complain about those you don't like, look for revenge, or try to change someone's opinion about you.
- Life is too short to be bitter over things you can't change, want to go back to what was, or always do the same thing.
- Life is too short to be bored, to always blend in, or to sit in the corner while the band is playing.
- Life is too short to skip church, leave good words unsung, or be afraid to pray.
- Life is too short to intend to live a new life, but never get around to it.
We shouldn't give ourselves to things that are less than God's best or surrender ourselves to the world values, because life is short.
Jesus' disciples haven't figured that out. They act like they have forever. They worry about the wrong things, they chase what's unimportant. They run around preoccupied with details, forgetting why they started doing what they're doing in the first place.
But Jesus knows the time is short. He's on his way to Jerusalem to die. There's a crowd of thousands gathering, but Jesus says this to his disciples, "Don't be afraid. You've been given the Kingdom. God has given you life itself. You don't have to be frightened. Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that doesn't need a bailout, a bank that can't go bankrupt, a bank you can bank on. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being."
"Earthly possessions don't matter much when you realize that your whole life is in God's hands. God gives us eternity, so all the stuff in the world is unnecessary. Only God's treasures are worth clinging to."
"Stay awake. Keep the lights on. Listen to this story. Some servants are busy running around doing unimportant stuff, not giving a lot of thought to the master who's gone off to get married. But when he comes back, even if it's the middle of the night, what a celebration they'll have. He'll put on an apron, give them a seat at the table and wait on them hand and foot, because he'll want them to see how happy he is. He'll want them to share his joy. Are they ready? Do they remember why they work in the master's house? Do they understand the whole point is to share in the master's joy? To live in the master's love? Or are they busy with peripheral matters that keep them from seeing what matters? Don't be distracted. Just when you least expect it, God will show up."
God's pleasure is to give us God's presence. God wants this gift to be celebrated. God wants us to understand that through sorrows and trials, whatever comes, we're going to be okay.
Christ calls us to amazing lives. Jesus tells the disciples to give up wanting more, share the wealth, be constantly awake for God's presence. Jesus describes a life of loving one's enemies, turning one's cheek, serving others.
God invites us to live in Christ's way, knowing that our sins are forgiven, knowing that despite what we might think of ourselves or what others might think about us, we are deeply loved by the one who created us. The value of our lives is not to be measured by our bank account, not by how we look, not by our standing in the community, not even by the amount of good we've done, but simply by this: that God values us highly enough to give us joy.
We live the good life out of gratitude. We live in the way of Christ, the way in which by faith, forgiveness triumphs over revenge, hope over despair, joy over sorrow, generosity over stinginess, love over apathy.
God calls us to be watchful for the ways in which joy is breaking in around us. Christ is always coming. The clouds are always descending. Stay alert to how God draws near in the mighty injustice that grabs our attention and begs for our passion. God draws near in the spiritual awakening that puts us in touch with a heart that we had forgotten we had. God draws near in the thing of beauty that reminds us that the world is more than just its ugliness. Who knows what form it will take, this reign of God that is always drawing near us? Be watchful for it. Look for it in the midst of the routines.
Wake up to whatever your life is bringing you. Wake up to pain because we can't be healed until we admit that we're hurt. Wake up to the love we won't let ourselves feel, because we're afraid our hearts will break. Wake up to the job we've been given--watching for God's presence.
Wake up and understand that when we look for God, we hear the ticking of the clock and understand that every minute is filled with possibilities. Our job is to stay awake to everything that life brings us--so that we don't miss it when God comes.
Pray for the ability to discern the presence of God, because life is short and you're old before you know it.
- Life is short, so live every day as if it were your last, because some day you'll be right.
- Life is short, so wake up, stay alert, be prepared, light the lamps, get ready. Listen for the knock, answer the call, serve where you're sent.
- Life is short, so do what you love to do and give it your best. Whether it's business or teaching or medicine, if you don't love what you're doing and can't give it your best, think seriously about getting out of it.
- Life is short, so recognize that today is the only day you have, eat dessert first, read good books.
- Life is short, so go to church and worship, stay awake, and sing.
- Life is short, so tell the truth, take care of this day, dance.
- Life is short, so listen to the people you love, tell them how much they mean to you, visit someone else's mother in the nursing home.
- Life is short, so recognize that every day is a special occasion, do something interesting, have some fun, and choose to be happy.
- Life is short, so forgive. Look past the faults of others just like you hope they will do for you.
- Life is short, so surround yourself with gracious people, hug your friends, care for someone you haven't cared for.
- Life is short, so be courageous, take a chance, live so that when your life flashes before your eyes, you'll have plenty to watch.
- Life is short, so embrace the possibilities, try something new, see that every day is an opportunity, dream, but don't just dream, follow those dreams.
- Life is short, so breathe and think deeply, don't give your heart to that which won't fill your heart, make the changes that will make the difference.
- Life is short, so celebrate God's eternity, make time for the things that matter, don't leave yourself regretting things you didn't do.
- Life is short, so be an evangelist, tell a friend how God's love has changed your life, be a person who talks about Jesus.
Pray hard, believe in Christ with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. Celebrate the love of God, get a life, because it's later than you think and life is short.
Let us pray. God, you have given us life to cherish and celebrate. You take pleasure in sharing your presence with us. Show us what we need to do to accomplish your great enterprise of love. Lead us to your eternal presence. Amen.