I once read a letter written by a man on his deathbed.
With his time running short, he wanted to leave a message behind. So, he decided to make a list of the things he would change about his life, if he could've had a do-over. He scribbled down on a sheet of paper that if he could start from the beginning again, the next time around he would:
- make more mistakes
- be sillier
- have more real troubles and less imaginary ones
- stop making such high grades, except by accident
- climb more mountains
- go barefoot more
- pick daisies
As trivial as these ideas may seem, that letter really got me thinking about my own life.
"Make more mistakes." Why would anyone desire to do that? As it stands, making mistakes is something I try my hardest to avoid if at all possible. Mistakes are embarrassing, frustrating, and time-wasting.
"Have more real troubles and less imaginary ones." I think I know what he means by that- and it sure hits home for me. I have it so good. I enjoy countless blessings every day- but still, I have to busy myself with something, so why not find something to worry about? Why not make trouble where there's none? I turn molehills into mountains and sparks into fires. I could've fit in perfectly with the Israelites in the Old Testament, always finding something to complain about.
"Stop making such high grades, except by accident." What a foreign thought for me. I stress over my future. I worry about getting good grades and not making it far enough in life. I kick myself for getting a 94% while complimenting my friend's 70%. strive to always be the best. I'm competitive and ambitious, but my insecurities keep me up ever night with fear.
"Relax." But isn't life nothing but difficulty? Shouldn't I take it all seriously? I don't want to end up a failure; I don't want to find myself regretting it all one day. Shouldn't I always plan ahead? Be careful? Think of every detail? Beware every possible outcome? I may be young, but why shouldn't I be saving money, budgeting, and preparing for the daunting future ahead?
The words of this dying man are convicting for me. They're convicting because they target every part of my life that I am trying to keep God from touching. They nail every aspect of my life that I want so badly to control. To plan. To schedule. He hits every weakness of mine right on the mark. And it's uncomfortable.
This list of "Would-Have-Done's" reminds me of how little I am really in charge of. And if that's the case, what excuse have I to be so serious? Where to I get off being so stressed? What reason have I to be worried and anxious, when my life has already been planned since the beginning?
I don't know what I want to be when I grow up, where I want to go, or what I want to do, but God does. He planned it all out before I was born. You've probably heard that a thousand times, but just let it sink in. God knows. If he were to show you the story of your life right at this moment, it would have every detail perfectly planned out. He already knows the mistakes you're going to make and the trials you will overcome. He knows. He knows who you'll marry, He knows where you'll live, He knows what you'll do, He knows what you'll struggle with, He knows the sorrows and the joys you'll encounter, and He knows when you'll be taken home to Him.
In the end, when our timer has run out, our money won't save us from dying. Our good grades won't let us live any longer. Our embarrassments and insecurities won't have any impact on our eternity. The only thing that will matter in the end is how we lived our lives for God. It's the only thing that will last. Not how many people liked you. Not how pretty you were. Not how wealthy you were. Not how smart you were.
Just how Godly you were.
I'm not advocating the rejection of all effort and responsibility. After all, we're called to do everything to the glory of God! He can take our talents, however meagre. He can take our gifts, however small. He can take our passions, however dull. He can take them and use them to further his marvellous kingdom here on earth! Even in our work, the praise and glory belong to the One who truly employs us.
Psalm 39:4-7 - Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered- how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath. We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is you.
I have not been putting my hope in Christ. I thought I was, I claimed I was, but I lied. And based on how I spend my time and energy, it's quite clear to see where I've placed my hope. School. Knowledge. Money. Talent. Popularity. Achievement. Self-Esteem. Pride. These are the idols I've worshiped; these are the lifeless, dead promises that I've trusted in.
But tonight, I believe the Spirit revealed to me just a bit of what it means to have hope in Christ. It means that no matter what happens- cancer, poverty, persecution, rejection, or failings- it could never compare to the richness of God's love! My place in Heaven is secure! I can be confident that I am a child of God! He loves me! And if I am loved by the Creator of the galaxies, whom should I fear? Of what should I be afraid? Why must I worry? For what else matters but that I am God's?
Psalm 121:1-2 - I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Remembering these truths isn't simple. I forget them every time I embarrass myself and every time I feel left out. But these things are not even a part of the equation when we are talking about our relationship with God. Even if I am the outcast and all my friends turn their backs on me, when eternity comes, all that pain will completely disappear. When I meet my Maker, every failure of mine will be forgotten. The reward of faithfully following Christ will be infinitely better than the momentary reward of impressing a fellow human. Everything on earth is fading. But the closer we get to eternity, the more brightly our treasures in Heaven shine.
I am starting to understand what hope means, but putting that hope into action is a whole other issue. It will take time, but I know that the hope I have in Christ needs to be what drives my every action. I will still fail Him, but He is a God who forgives. I still feel Satan's temptations coming back, but I have God. I will still be humiliated. I will still fail miserably, lose friends, miss the mark, and fall short of these ambitions and goals that I have.
But it doesn't matter, because this life isn't all I've got. This life isn't the reality, it's just the precursor.
I have a renewed reason to live.
I have hope.