My wife and I had just returned from Spain. We had been home just two nights, and were still catching up on some much needed sleep. Our son AJ was just two months old, and all three of us were experiencing somejet lag. That’s what made a 6am wake-up call so annoying. Until we realized what was happening: our nation was being attacked.
Few of us will ever forget where we were the day the 9/11 attacks happened in New York. The images of buildings crashing down in America’s largest city; the videos of people jumping out of windows giving up on a chance to be rescued; the smoke filled streets and bewildered pedestrians; the courageous firefighters who ran into buildings people were running out of; the broken hearts, shattered dreams and lost relationships that changed our nation.
In the days that followed, there were also incredible stories of heroic rescues and the amazing survival of the God-given human spirit that began moving forward. People who were thought to be dead were found alive, rescue personnel worked around the clock, never giving up the hope that one more person might be found and rescued -- including two people rescued almost 24 hours after the buildings collapsed!
We were all reminded of a lot that day. We were reminded that our country wasn’t as safe as we had always believed. We were reminded that humans have an incredible capacity to survive. We were reminded that evil was very real and very deadly. We were reminded that politics will never unite us like the coming together over tragedy or triumph. We were reminded that life is so short.
James describes our life like this:
“What is your life? It is a vapor…” (James 4:14)
After 9/11 I read countless stories of people who witnessed the events of that day and reflected, “In moments like this, you realize how fragile and how short life is.” I remember one news commentator wrapping up a multi-hour live broadcast from ground zero, stating, “Hug your children and your families tonight. Days like today remind us how precious our time is.” Indeed, time is precious.
In the grand scheme of things, life is short. It’s funny how I used to hear older people talk about “how fast time flies” or, in reference to their adult children, they would say, “I remember when I held you in my arms…seems like just yesterday.” I’m looking at my 12-year-old boy and thinking the same thing: where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday we were coming home from a three week trip to Spain.
When my friend Richard passed away a few years ago, I remember spending time with him during his last few weeks. He had lived a good life, he had loved God, loved his wife and kids, and served faithfully in many ways. For a short season, he was a pastor, but spent much of his life in education. Richard was gracious and kind, welcoming and inviting, but held on to truth without apology. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone quite like him.
And as he was leaving this world, I remember the confidence with which he spoke about the future, and with how little regret he spoke about the past. It wasn’t that he had lived life perfectly (he would have been the first to admit that!), but he had used his time wisely, and had honored God with his greatest resource. I’ve been on the other side of that conversation, watching men and women die with great regret -- it’s a heartbreaking tragedy to watch someone die like that.
Richard understood the shortness of life. He lived it like it was a vapor and when God took him home, Richard was ready. 9/11 reminds me that life is short. I’m not living scared, looking for the next terrorist attack, but I am mindful that the shortness of life may not give me opportunity to ‘right all wrongs’ or restore broken relationships before I’m gone. I don’t want to be breathing my last breath, mindful of all my regrets.
Are you living the Overboard Life today? Are you living all out, knowing that the shortness of life is a reality, and the moments you have today are a precious gift from God? I hope you’ll live like my friend Richard, so that when it’s time, you too will go peacefully home to God without many regrets.
I’m a little somber today as I remember back to 9/11. But I’m also eager to keep living a life, the Overboard Life, that embraces the moments God has given me. Life may be short, but it is priceless and every moment is worth living, fully!
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is better on the water!