Thursday, March 28, 2019

If Tomorrow Were the Last Day?

Most procrastinators embrace the motto, “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?” Sometimes that works for me. Realizing how much concentration and energy a project will require, doing it another day can have certain appeal. At times like that, emptying the dishwasher or going out to the mailbox seems easier than enduring the necessary mental agony involved with the creative act of writing – or the frustration of taking on a tedious household chore.

However, procrastination isn’t the antidote for every pressing deadline, responsibility or obligation. Sooner or later, things need to get done. Postponing them only increases the stress once we finally get around to doing them. And some things just can’t wait.

Recently I read a brief article about a noted author who had written a book about the Apocalypse, the end of days. The interviewer closed by asking him, “If it were the end of days, what might you do?”

The author quipped, ”I would write faster. I would have to learn to touch-type.” But it was his next statement that grabbed my attention: “I’d want to play with my 3-year-old a lot more.”

Ponder that for a moment. If he knew the end of days was upon him, then he would feel inclined to play more with his young child. However, since he didn’t think the “end of days” was imminent, playing more often with the 3-year-old apparently didn’t seem as urgent. It could wait.

I see several problems with this perspective. First, for all we know, the end times could indeed arrive tomorrow. It will happen, according to 1 Corinthians 15:52, in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye.”

Jesus also warned, Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:42-44).

Second, even if the biblical end times doesn’t arrive for a long time yet, each of us face a personal “end of days” that might not be as remote as we suspect. Lots of people have left behind calendars filled with plans and commitments, totally unaware of how little time on earth remained for them.

Most important, 3-year-olds don’t stay 3 all that long, as I’ve discovered. Soon they’re 4, then 5, then 10, then teenagers. And suddenly, almost before we know it, they’re adults, married and starting families of their own. The time to take advantage of special moments is now, not tomorrow or next week. Especially with children.

This reminds me of the classic tune by Harry Chapin, “Cat’s in the Cradle.” In case you don’t know it or have forgotten, it’s about a father whose child “arrived just the other day…. But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay….” And in the meantime, the boy was growing up. The father missed pivotal moments, like first steps and first words, along with many potentially happy times together.

At the end of the song, the father ruefully realizes opportunities have been squandered, wonderful memories have never been created, and when he finally has time for his son, the son is too busy with his own life. The boy had always said, ”I’m gonna be like you, dad” – and he’s done just that.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my grandsons came to the house, wanting to “spend some time with Pop.” I had reading I’d intended to do, but remembered the day will come when he no longer feels a need to be with me. So I put my book down, and he and I played a game, threw a Frisbee and a ball around for a while, and pushed some toy cars down our driveway.

Earlier in my life, while pursuing a successful career, too often I was like the father that had planes to catch, bills to pay and deadlines to meet. Unique moments with our daughters that I wasn't around to experience couldn’t be saved for another day. I’m sure I missed even more than I realized. Hopefully, I’m doing a bit better with our grandkids.

Ephesians 5:16 talks about “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” That doesn’t mean time itself is somehow evil or bad. But it never stops moving forward. There’s no pause button on the clock or calendar. Time waits for no one. Just as a coupon usually has an expiration date, after which it can’t be redeemed, special moments in life also expire. 

So we better cash them in as soon as they present themselves, because tomorrow, even an hour or five minutes from now, it may be too late.

In one way or another, the end of days will come sooner than we might think. What is it, if it were the end of days, that you would want to do?

No comments: