A lot of people think we should be living for today, but I disagree.
I get what they mean, even from a Scriptural perspective. Our lives are but a mist, James writes, and his big brother Jesus consistently warned that we shouldn’t waste a whole bunch of our lives banking on tomorrow.
Tomorrow may not come, after all.
Carpe Diem! makes for a great t-shirt, but I’ve got a slightly different approach to life. I’m not living for today. Instead, I’m living with my last day in mind. That may very well be today, I suppose, but it could also be 60 years from now. This much is certain — someday, and I don’t know when — someone is going to lock my corpse in a box and throw a bunch of dirt over the top of it. A slab of granite will mark where it is so that future generations can swing by the cemetery and swap stories. Fifty years later, no one alive will have any stories left. I’ll be a fading memory, along with the photographs my descendants thumb through on holidays.
Saying all that leads some folks to despair. If we’ll all be forgotten, what’s the point? Eat, drink, and be merry! Tomorrow — or sometime, at least — we’ll die. Live it up! Don’t over think this thing we call life.
But the fact that someday I’ll be forgotten is what moves me to live a life that matters. On my last day, I want to be able to look back and know I contributed something other than this devilishly handsome face for those fading photographs.
What do I want to look back on?
I want to know that people knew Jesus because I told them. I want my wife to die happy and following Jesus. I want my kids to have a foundation laid for them, one that lasts for generations. I want the kids on my refrigerator to have not starved to death because I was willing to drive a clunker of a car for a while so I could sponsor them. I want there to be school buildings and church buildings all over the most unreached parts of the globe because I helped start a nonprofit that rallied people around the cause. I want to know that I did what was right–not perfectly, but enough that my family’s name was never smeared through the mud as another example of someone who was different behind closed doors than he was out in public.
I want to know that heaven will be more populated because I walked on earth. I want to die knowing my kids and my grandkids are walking with Jesus. I want to know I obeyed Jesus’ commands to love good, hate evil, and store up my treasures in heaven.
Mike Yaconelli, the late, famed, youth ministry guru who inspired an entire generation of youth workers (maybe 2 generations) put it this way:
“I want a lifetime of holy moments. Every day I want to be in dangerous proximity to Jesus. I long for a life that explodes with meaning and is filled with adventure, wonder, risk, and danger. I long for a faith that is gloriously treacherous. I want to be with Jesus, not knowing whether to cry or laugh.”
That’s what I want on my last day. To look back and know it counted.
When I was in High School, I ran cross country. Back then I only weighed about 170 pounds and I could run 3.1 miles without needing to visit the emergency room afterward. What is crazy is your body can do some insane stuff if you train it to push through the tough stuff. I remember some races where I’d want to quit and walk, but there would only be a little bit left to go. I’d push, and push, and push. Then, in the last quarter-mile or so, despite the fact that you wanted to die, you’d speed up. I remember one race where I was neck and neck with another runner and we were sprinting to the finish. My whole body was light. I was drenched in sweat but I was cold. My legs were about to fall off, but there was no way I was stopping. It’s the closest feeling to flying I had ever felt. I crossed the finish line, and to be honest I don’t even remember if I won or not. It didn’t matter. I was completely spent — totally drained. A hot, shivering mess, I had given every ounce I had. I nearly collapsed from the strain.
But I’d finished, by golly.
That’s how I want my last day to feel — like I had nothing left in the tank.
My legs will be shaky from serving, my heart will be racing from loving, my body will feel like it’s floating because I’ve gone so hard for so long. My breath will be labored from preaching so much. My pulse will be racing from risk-taking faith. I’ll have burned every drop of gas I had in this tank of a body. Sweating from the race, I don’t really care what place I finish.
I just want to finish. Because finishing will be winning. Like Paul said, I will be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Finishing will means everything. Living for my last day is what I’m doing. It’s exhausting sometimes, and I blow it sometimes, but I’m going to keep running. After all, I’ve got a last day to prepare for.