I had a birthday this week. A big one, according to most folks. It made me think a little, which is about as much as I ever seem to think- but that’s another story and only slightly related. What I was thinking about is time. Time marches on. Time waits for no man. It gets a little heavy, TBH. I’m not one to dwell on my own mortality, but at a certain age, it seems prudent to take stock of your life. This is particularly important when you consider the way God moves in our lives. Though we hear about them more, the times God makes dramatic “road to Damascus” changes in our lives are far outweighed by the small, incremental changes He effects through daily life. How do we know we are headed in the right direction when the day-to-day changes are small? I let my thoughts drift to the eulogy test.
In my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to know a few folks well enough to be asked to speak at their funerals. It’s not something I enjoy, to be honest, but it does give you a chance to reflect on a person’s life, their qualities, and impact. Like anyone would in that situation, I let my thoughts wander to my own funeral- what will those who have to speak be able to say? Would I be proud of the impact I had on their lives? Am I doing my best to make their job easy- to fill the lives of those around me with positive experiences and love? In short- am I spending my time wisely?
One thing everyone agrees on- once you’ve spent time, you don’t get to redo. The past “is what it is.” The future is worth considering, though. With an ever-decreasing number of hours remaining to us- how should we allocate them?
I’m sorry to say I didn’t come up with the silver-bullet golden rule answer, but I think I did make some progress. In general, from my own experience and my observations of those I admire- I came up with the following aspiration for my next 50 years:
- Helping those in need
- Building Up people struggling to do the right thing
- Developing deeper relationships with those I love
- Celebrating victories in life (even the small ones)
- Expressing Gratitude
- Lamenting Injustice
- Criticising those who don't get it right (as I see it)
- Harboring resentment with those I've felt wronged by
- Replaying setbacks repeatedly in my head
- Complaining about imperfection
The truth is it’s very easy for me to do the things on the "Do Less" list, and they never leave me feeling better. I may feel justified or superior for a moment, but I never wake up thinking- the world’s a better place because I succinctly and persuasively summarized my position on (insert issue here) on social media yesterday. Further, the people I admire devote considerable energy to the "Do More" list and very little on the "Do Less" list. I don’t expect I’ll get it perfect (or even close) but I hope my efforts will be evident to those around me.
With that in mind- I want to say a few things:
To those I’ve spent time complaining to recently: Thank you for listening, I’m sorry if I left you feeling worse than when I started complaining. I want you to know that I realise my complaints are trivial compared to the many blessings I’ve been given. I’m thankful for your ears, and I hope to fill them with gratitude and perspective that lifts you up rather than pulls you down.
To those I’ve neglected recently: I’m sorry I’ve allowed my priorities to become warped. Like each of you, I feel stretched thin at times, but you are important to me. I’ll try to make the most of whatever time we have together.
To those of you I’ve disagreed with, I want you to know that I’m capable of seeing the good in you even when we disagree. We’re made so complex that I’m sure I disagree with everyone on some things. I’m sorry I have been tempted to adopt a binary worldview that leaves inadequate room for relationships in the grey areas.
To those I’ve felt wronged by: I’m sorry I focused so intently on a small part of your humanity. I’m excited for the potential you have as one of God’s creatures, and my prayer will be that He works through you to accomplish great things.
To each and every one of you: I’m just a man, flawed like each of us, but redeemed by a desire to positively impact those around me. I commit to do my best to lift you through our relationship. Maybe someday you’ll speak kindly of me at a funeral?
Jay Lefforge is a Texas native who's been in Arkansas for over 15 years. He and his wife Gwendy have 3 kids- Annie-18, Sam-16 and Tillie-12. Jay has been a member at Grace since 2002.