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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

" are a mist..."

I’ve just marked the passing of another year of my life.  I’m not yet to the age where it bothers me to be a year older.  I have however reached the place where each birthday prompts me to recognize that my earthly life will not last forever.  Milestone birthdays that used to seem ages away look younger and younger all the time.

I was prompted yesterday to think about the term “midlife.”  The US Census lists “middle age” as including two age categories, both 35 to 44 and 45 to 54.  Other sources peg it between 40 and 65.  In the end, the concept is quite arbitrary.  Although I’ve not yet reached “middle age” by most definitions, it is presumptuous for me to assume that I still have more than half of my life ahead of me.  

James 4:13-15 tells us, Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"-- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."

What if I reached the middle of my life when I was 18 and am now living in my last days?  This is not morbid speculation, but a necessary perspective for all of us.  If we’re not careful, we may not only assume that we have years and years ahead of us, but even worse – we may live like it.  We may end up spending the last days of our lives accumulating and achieving, erroneously planning to minister and love and give in twilight years that will never come. 

The proper response to an awareness of the fleeting nature of life is not to cast off all restraint and go check off entries on some “Bucket List.”  James 4 calls us to continue to be responsible and plan for the future.  It would be poor stewardship to do otherwise.  But in our planning for the future, we must realize that our lives are in God’s hands and the end could be very near.  As a believer, the awareness that my life is a mist should prompt me to live a far more prioritized life right now, not focusing on selfish exploits, but pouring myself out selflessly into the things that have eternal import.  Some backburner things should be moved to the front, and vice-versa. 

I don’t know about you, but as I look back at how I’ve spent my life so far, I see much wasted time and many wasted opportunities.  I should have pursued the Lord harder and more consistently.  I should have loved more deeply.  I should have shared more freely.  I suspect I’m not alone.

Past failures should be confessed.  There should be repentance and the seeking of forgiveness.  Praise the Lord we serve a God who always stands ready to forgive. 

From today on, faithful stewardship requires that I not dwell on failures He has already covered, but that I press on toward the prize.  Faithful stewardship requires that I spend every day of the rest of my life realizing what a gift it is and how fleeting it is.  Faithful stewardship requires that I wring out every moment I have left in service, love, and giving to the Lord and those around me. 

No matter when each of us are taken home, may the Lord find us doing just that.

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