Something about the short celebration of an expired soul—the summing of a lifetime in a spattering of words—clears the mental mirage that fools me into believing life lasts.
Yesterday I sat at the funeral of the patriarch of the company where I work. It was a lovely, emotionally rich service…the best part of which were the touching tributes of three grown sons to their deceased father. Tears are not commonly seen on the cheeks of my eminently successful bosses, but something about losing your dad seems to reduce all men to little boys again.
As I sat quietly reflecting on this fine man’s legacy, I was once again reminded of the brevity of life. We really do have no idea how many years we have or what those years hold.
Humility is the only logical response when you stand on the unavoidable precipice called death.
Now, this was not a man cut off in his prime. He lived a good, long life. But even a long life is brief compared to the even longer death.
Funerals jog my easily distracted memory. Their finality reminds me that what we leave behind, how our lives are summed up and our accomplishments eulogized, totally depends on how we spend time.
The ways in which we invest this commodity we call time will determine the ways in which we are remembered in the closure we call death.
Modern culture seems quite literally obsessed with saving time. Gadgets and devices, technologies and strategies, energy and money–all carefully designed and compulsively applied to do what you cannot do.
Save time. In spite of Jim Croce’s wistful lyrics, time cannot be saved in a bottle.
Much of this societal desire to save time is so we can waste it. We want to milk more time out of a day so we can use it in pursuits so mundane and meaningless, they will never be recalled at our funerals.
Like the Prodigal Son in Jesus’ story, we tend to waste our inheritance on pursuits that have no lasting value and leave no lasting imprint. Careless frittering of the few moments we are allotted on earth leads to unmitigated regret, unrealized potential and unaccomplished dreams.
What gets eulogized, remembered and celebrated of our lives is what we spend time on.
- Intention—living with my heart. Using time with my created purpose always in mind. It is when I run my life by design instead of letting it run me by default.
- Direction—living toward my hope. Focusing my energy on what I want to leave as a legacy. It is when I live my life for impact instead of letting it drift to insignificance.
- Passion—living from my hunger. Inspiring my soul to make a difference in something for someone. It is when I live life with intensity instead of wasting it indifferently.
Spending time is pointing your minutes at a target of such importance that the results will outlive and outlast you. It is about investing your alotted hours in what will pay dividends for generations to come.
What will be talked about at your funeral is what you did that really mattered.
- Your impact. What did you change?
- Your influence. What did you shape?
- Your identity. What did you become?
Life is short. It is a euphemism so inevitably true we make it inanely trite. But funerals have a way of lifting that truth from its foggy surroundings and casting the bright light of undeniable reality on it.
The Bible pulls no punches on how the inevitability of death should inform the integration of life. It clearly states two crucial facts concerning the brevity of life:
Living with the short view of life frees you to focus on what matters while you’re here. “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps 90:12)
Living with the short view of life frees you to focus on what matters when you’re gone. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)
What will be remembered when you have passed on is what you did that can be passed on.
The time we waste can never be taken back.
The time we spend can never be taken away.