In 2004, country music artist Tim McGraw released a song that would land him a Grammy and go on to become the number one country song of the year. “Live Like You Were Dying” had crossover appeal, its inspiring message a dare to live life to the full. Sung from the point of view of a patient who had just received a terminal diagnosis, it was essentially a bucket list of things to do when you realize your days are numbered, a kind of reality check that jerks you into writing a better story for yourself by becoming the sort of human you always wanted to be, right now. Because, in the case of the song, time was of the essence.
Friends, I’m here to tell you time is of the essence. We need to be right-now-living people… right now. From birth the reality is our days are numbered. So, what are we to do with that?
A few years ago, (in)courage featured Jean Fleming’s Pursue the Intentional Life for our book club. Formative, insightful, profound, and practical, this book impacted me personally and deeply. Maybe it was the kindred spirit I found in Jean, or maybe it was the way she articulated what it looks like to live with careful intention. She introduced sobering thoughts and ideas at times: “… every year I pass – unheralded – the anniversary of my death.” Mercy, that one blew my mind. Overall, much of the book gave me pause and reason to consider how I was spending my most precious currency: time.
Before I had kids, I had one of the greatest jobs on the planet: marketing director for a retirement community. I was young – so young, in hindsight – but I was wise enough to recognize I had much to glean from the wisdom of our residents. One thing I observed then and believe even more strongly now is this: The older you get, the more you become who you already are. Nice people seemed to get nicer, grouchy people managed to get grouchier.
I purposed in my heart then, even as a 20-something, that I wanted to grow older with grace, to be careful about who I was becoming, and to set an on-purpose target of kind disposition. Perhaps this was why Jean’s book meant so much to me. It was a toolkit of sorts for “becoming.”
Scripture tells us we reap what we sow. I long to bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This passage in Galatians begins by telling us how to sow this sort of fruit: Walk by the Spirit. Often I find spiritual principles are incredibly simple but paradoxically complex.
Today is Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, a solemn day observed in Christendom, the commemoration of the Last Supper. It is when Jesus, in an act of astonishing humility, washed His disciples’ feet. It is when He shared His last Passover meal with them and when He extended a new commandment:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
On the eve of His physical death as a man, Jesus’ actions speak as loudly as His words. He knew what was to come. With limited time left with the people He loved most, everything He said, everything He did, was significant. We understand this better when we ask ourselves one question: If we knew this was our last day on earth, how would we spend our time? If, like in McGraw’s song, we found out we were facing a terminal diagnosis, how would our day-to-day choices change?
I know I’d want to be current with the people I love most. I’m sure there would be a sense of urgency and laser intention about how I’d spend my time. I’d sift every opportunity through fine mesh to be certain every “yes” was worth it. I’d pray as the Psalmist prayed, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
Tomorrow is not only Good Friday but also my birthday, and this is my earnest prayer:
Lord, thank You for this sweet gift of life and for inviting us into Your Kingdom as daughters You love. Thank You for Your unimaginable gift of Your life for ours, Your love, forgiveness, peace, and joy. Please teach us to number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom. Open our hearts to love others the way You love all Your children: fully and completely, without condition, sacrificially and unexpectedly, and always in a way that gives honor and glory to God the Father. Jesus, teach us what it means to walk by the Spirit that we might bear good fruit with eternal value. Amen.