It sounds like a lot of time, thirty-one million seconds, but it’s not. It’s all you have in any given year to live and make a difference. Before you know it, millions of moments are gone forever. At some point, the wrinkled face looking back at you in the mirror with its wear and tear might surprise you. It may feel like you’re looking at the “ghost of Christmas future” and you’re haunted with a prospect that scares you. Does my life count and have I used my time wisely?
I’ve lived for almost two billion seconds (you do the math), and I’ve decided I don’t want to squander one more moment on anything that’s meaningless or empty. Life is too short to waste it.
I had a dear friend, Carol, who was once the epitome of beauty. Young, slim, with dark hair and eyes, and a smile that seemed both enchanting and a little devious. At only twenty-nine she had accomplished so much that she was the envy of her co-workers and friends. It seemed to all who knew her that she was destined for greatness. Then came the diagnosis that changed everything, “You have stage four cervical cancer,” and within a year she was gone.
Thirty-one million seconds are priceless, especially when there’s no guarantee you own the next one. Carol is still remembered for a lot of things, but most of all, I remember her for the utter surprise I faced when she died. Apparently, life really is short—much shorter than some of us realize.
Most of my life, I’ve lived aware that we all have an expiration date. Being exposed to death at an early age made me prematurely aware of my own mortality. I was seven or eight when a classmate in school died of leukemia. Of course, I had no idea what leukemia was or why it took the life of my friend, but I do remember thinking, “Someday, I will probably die of something . . . I just hope it doesn’t hurt.”
Forgive me if this all seems a bit morbid. My intent is not to scare or depress you. I certainly don’t want anyone to fixate on death. However, it is my deep conviction that only those who are aware of their limited time on terra firma will live the kind of passionate, intentional, and epic life God intended for each of us. You need not live in fear of the inevitable, but you must not waste the gifts you have, especially the gift of time.
ON CRUISE CONTROL
Honestly, for at least a few years, I’d pretty much been living life on cruise control. Routine and risk-avoidance had become the new norm for me. I hadn’t quit on life; I just wasn’t as fully engaged as I had been most of my days prior to turning fifty.
By fifty or so, I’d experienced a measure of success. Capable people surrounded me at work and didn’t need or require micromanaging. I had a nice home in a nice neighborhood with nice neighbors. I’d been all over the world, and travel was becoming more inconvenient and less exciting. There wasn’t much, if anything, left on my bucket list. Life was good. So I hit the cruise button, sat back, and relaxed.
WAKE UP CALL
When I got cancer at fifty-four, it jolted me back to a purpose driven life. In fact, during that battle God spoke to my heart, “Kurt, you ain’t dead yet!” At that moment, I saw how comfortable I’d grown, and I realized that my path of ease was an enemy to a life of radical faith. God challenged me to reengage and to make sure that I lived all 86,440 seconds of each day with intentionality.
Some of you are young, and you’re finding it hard to relate. For you, life is fresh and new and exciting. You’re convinced that something awesome is around the next corner. I applaud your zest for living. Hold on to that passion for life. But trust me on this, things change; life can wear you down, and we are all at risk of letting our days become little more than a boring routine. We all tend to drift toward getting stuck in our comfort zones.
Others are a bit perturbed with me right now. You like your comfortable, lazy-boy life of wasting hours mindlessly in front of your big screen. The closest thing you know of to adventure is watching Survivor. You may not say it out loud, but you often think, “I’ll leave any bold undertaking to the young.”
Of course, you’ve got reasonable excuses:
I’m too old.
I’ve got too many responsibilities.
I have health issues.
I’ve worked hard for what I have . . . it’s time to chill on a beach somewhere.
Besides, at my age, you must be careful; risk-taking can kill ya!
Perhaps, however, something is stirring in your soul. Maybe there is a growing realization in your mind of this truth: God’s not finished with you yet.
Here’s a little thought-provoking insight: We all have the same amount of time. Regardless of your age, thirty-one million seconds are the same for everybody. I know it seems like time passes more quickly with age, but it doesn’t. Maybe it just feels faster because you waste more time in your self-made rut of boredom. Yesterday looks a lot like today because it is, for you, so the days blend together like white noise in your soul, without any distinctive moments of adventure. You’ve forgotten how to dance to the music of life because it’s easier not to dance.
MAKE IT COUNT
Most of my life, I’ve shown up early to everything. In my opinion, if you’re not early, you’re late. (On the other hand, being late to my grave is just fine with me.) In the meantime, I hope to make every day and every moment I have count for something way bigger than me, something eternal.
The only thing that separates life from death is one heartbeat and one second, but there’s a whole world of difference between living and dying, so live well. Live your life on purpose. Live with passion. Live with a commitment to make every one of those thirty-one million seconds and beyond count for something eternal. If you don’t, you’ll lose far more than time. Living life on cruise control is for the crusty, and God has so much more in store for you.
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