Friday, December 28, 2007

Get busy living, or get busy dying

A few years ago I heard a song by Tim McGraw called "Live like you were dying". The man who the song was about was told that he did not have long to live, and decided to take what time he had left to really live. Every time I hear that song, I wonder why so many of us are like this man, just trying to make it to the next deal, or the next goal, or just to make it through the day, and how it often takes something like a sudden cancer diagnosis to shake us out of the every dayness of everyday, and start living life to the fullest. The reality is that every day we live; we are that much closer to dying. Whether it is 4 months or 40 years, we are all heading toward that distant shore.

As I live longer, I am learning most of the things that we spend most of the time and thought on, if you are really honest with ourselves, are not close to being as critical or as fulfilling as we often think. This is not to say we should neglect our responsibilities. We shouldn't, especially when our families depend on us. But it seems a tragedy that so often we find out too late that the things we have at times ignored, in our single minded pursuits for status or wealth or a new house or a bigger fancier car, are all too often the things that would bring us the most joy in life.

In the Biblical Gospel of John, you will see this phrase - "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10 English Standard Version) That passage is from where Jesus is describing himself as a good shepherd, who takes care of his sheep, which are us. Now any of you who have taken care of pets can understand. You want to make sure that all their needs are met in abundance, and they are well fed and cared for, so that they are then free to live and run and bark/meow/squeak, and enjoy living. While our pets may spend a great deal of effort in trying to please us, if their needs are met, they are content.

In the same way, I think what Jesus is saying here is that we have the ability in Him to relax. Our needs are met, if only we take the time to see it. There is great freedom in that. Freedom from constantly trying to prove ourselves to those that truly don't care about us, or to book the next deal, or to win the next account. Freedom to enjoy our families. To go on the mountain climbing vacation, or the ballgame with your kids, or to surprise your wife with a romantic weekend in San Diego. Freedom to laugh just for the sake of laughing. Freedom to live abundantly - to "live like you were dying."

Incidentally, the title of todays post is from a quote from on of my favorite films, The Shawshank Redemption. In that movie, the main character, Andy Dufresne, refuses to lose hope in the midst of an extremely dark and unjust place. In this film I see graphic reminders that it is the little, seemingly insignificant things, like cold beer shared with your friends on a hot day, or helping others with no expectation of reward, and having true friends, that make life worth living, even in the midst of extreme hardship.