In The End
October 28th, 2007
Some time ago during one of my kids’ elementary school events I was walking the halls observing the latest student created art and literary projects displayed on the walls. One was by some third graders who were given the assignment to write about what they thought their future would look like. All were entertaining to read, yet a boy named Ryan penciled one that grabbed my attention.
“When I grow up I am going to be the world’s greatest hockey player. Then I will be a famous scientist, marry a perfect wife and have 5 kids. In the end, I will die.”
Being a strong believer in the value of a liberal arts education, I appreciated his understanding that he can indeed excel in both hockey and science. With the right approach he can transition his career from slap shots and body checks to titrations and electron microscopes. And I loved his innocent naiveté in believing that there exists such a creature as a “perfect wife” (or husband). A precocious kid like Ryan may be well on his way to accomplishing everything on his list, though someday that “have 5 kids” thing will require some serious co-operation from his perfect wife.
However it turns out for him, he nailed one truth to the wall.
“In the end, I will die.”
I can’t help but think if Ryan keeps that fresh in his head, everything that comes before the end will be rich for him.
When we acknowledge each day that there is an end to life on earth, it helps us live with a sense of purpose.
According to the actuarial table used by the United States Social Security Administration, my life expectancy extends another 33.28 years.
I can probably add several years for not being a smoker, a drinker or recreational drug user. And the family genetics indicate that 80 plus years is a good possibility. But my cholesterol and blood pressure are a little on the high side, I tend to worry too much and wherever I go I seem to be surrounded by crazy drivers. So it’s probably a wash. All things considered, if I escaped city traffic and moved to North Dakota, I could probably fire up a Cohiba, start drinking Guinness and still come out ahead. But I’m an average guy and the average 44-year old guy lives another 33.28 years.
I’ve never been good at math. But I can see the obvious. Statistically speaking, my life is more than half over. That in itself is sobering. Not that 44 is old. But it isn’t 34. Or 24. Or 12. It’s 44. I’m closer to the end than I am the beginning.
We’ve all heard or been posed the hypothetical question, “If you knew you only had a year to live, what would you do?” Such a question sends us rushing to prioritize. What’s worth my time? What’s not? What would I do more of? What would I do less of? What would I not do at all?
Of course, the follow up question is, “If there’s things you’d do more and less of if you knew you only had a year to live, why aren’t you living that way now?” Junk mail is junk mail, right? Opening it is a waste of time whether we have terminal cancer or have another 50 years on the planet. That the people in your life know you care about them is important all the time. So why wait for a tragedy to say “I love you”? Especially when telling them now will enrich the relationship for whatever time you have left?
The “what would you do if you knew you had a year to live” question is a healthy exercise if it reminds us to live with purpose. The danger lies in thinking the question is hypothetical. Because whatever the Social Security Administration’s actuarial table says about our life expectancy, there’s a more important statistic to keep in front of us.
1 out of 1…dies.
It’s just a matter of when.
There’s a difference between living with a sense of panic and living with a sense of urgency. The former is based in fear. The latter flows from confident purpose. God desires that we live with a sense of urgency because He created us for a purpose.
In Psalm 139 God tells us that He “had all our days written down in His book before there was yet one of them.” And in Ephesians 2:10 God says that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that He has prepared in advance that we should walk in them.” Simply put, we can live out each day knowing that God has our life in His hand. He has a plan for us. A life of good works that He has prepared for us to do. If we live fully each day, how much time we have left becomes irrelevant. Because all we can do is make the most of the time God grants us.
And He grants us one day at a time.
So whatever you’d do more of and less of, start doing it and not doing it. Live with a sense of urgency.
Thank God for writing all your days down in His book.
Then ask Him to help you make the most of this one called “today”.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” - Psalm 90:12