If I only had 182 days to live|
I often get a last minute email from my host that includes directions to the hotel, directions to the church and contact phone numbers.
Last week's email looked like a hundred other ones:
It looked like a hundred others, except that last line. I decided it a courtesy to ask about it.
"How was everything with the doctor's appointment?"
"Fine. I start radiation treatment on Monday."
Radiation. The word brings chills up our spines. I didn't know how to respond, so I didn't.
The next morning, When I saw Randy again, I decided to ask about that. "So, I guess you have cancer?" He confirmed my suspicion. "What is the prognosis?"
"Well I had cancer a couple of years ago. I went through chemo and radiation and we thought we had it. Recently it has come back. They found spots on my lungs, by hip, my. . ." He continued to name internal body parts and organs. I am no doctor, but that did not sound good. Then, he confirmed my worst fear, "They give me about 6 months."
Six months. Wow. I didn't know what to say. The conversation went on to something else, but I kept thinking about it. I asked about how the radiation worked. Every day trips to Orlando from Melbourne (about 90 minutes) for three weeks. We talked about kids and the church and the wire that we were looking for. I kept thinking, "How would I handle that? How does he handle it? How would anyone?"
I am probably more curious and more blunt at times than common courtesy allows, but I had a couple more questions. "How does the thought of dying in six months affect your day to day life?"
"How do you mean?"
"Well, you said you have to drive to Orlando every day for three weeks. If that were me, I would think immediately of what I like to do when I drive--listen to books and sermons as I drive. It is mostly self-development stuff--how to be better at what I do. If I were dying in six months, I am not sure that that would matter to me. It seems it would change everything."
"Ah. I see where you are going. Here is how I see it: I am going to just try to help as many people as I can as much as I can for as long as I can. What else can I do?"
I couldn't help but think, "Only God could to that to a human heart." I think most of us, without God would think, "I am going to have as much fun as I can for as long as I can." Not Randy. The compelling ambition of this dying man was to help as many people as he can as much as he can for as long as he can.
This conversation has been a defining moment for me. A moment I think I will look back on for years to come and know that it has altered the trajectory of my life. In a way, it is an old group question: "What would you do with your life if you only had 6 months to live?" Now, it was real. What would I do with my life if I only had 6 months, 182 days, to live?
My mind went first to trivial things. (That probably says more about me than I would like to admit.) I thought about this diet I am on. That would go out the window fast. I mean, why die healthy? I would go on the Pizza, burgers, fries, cheese sticks and key lime pie diet.
Other trivial things would instantly loose their appeal. I am a self-described gizmo-holic. I never met a gizmo I didn't like. I have told my wife, "I don't care what I get for Christmas, as long as it plugs in." I just purchased a new gizmo from Wal-mart. It is an FM transmitter. I can plug it into my MP3 player and listen to what is on the MP3 through the car's FM radio. Cool.
Cool, but I don't think any of that would matter if I had 182 days left. I think my coveting of gizmos would find an instant and thorough cure.
Naturally, I thought of my family. I feel I have a good relationships with my wife and kids, so I wouldn't feel I had any repair work to do. But, I would want to build some memories. Maybe take a family vacation. Maybe a trip to Hawaii with my wife. One thing I have enjoyed doing over the years is spending some one-on-one time with my kids. I might take some short trips with each one of my kids.
I might write some things. Things that may not make a lot of sense to them now, but things that I hope they would pick up 10 years from now and listen to. Things I would want to say to them 10 years from now but wouldn't be able to.
I don't think I would want to spend all my time on family things. If I had six weeks to live, maybe. But if I had six months, there are some other things I would want to do. In some ways, I would just want to live life. I love the life God has given me, and I would just want to live some normal days. That seemed to be what Randy was doing.
I really do believe in the vision of doubling groups. If I had only 182 days to live, I would want to impart the vision deeply in the hearts of some people. In a way, this is what I spend my life doing. These articles, the speaking I do, the lessons I write, are all about planting the seed of a vision deeply in the hearts of people.
The gospel message is the hope of a hurting world. It is the only hope for a hurting world. Our great God deserves to be honored, respected, enjoyed, thanked, and acknowledged. He deserves to be treated better than he is treated on your cul-de-sac and mine. We need it; God deserves it; the gospel message must spread.
Many who teach and write on the growth of the church think in terms of the local church growing. My focus has been one level down, organizationally. My focus is on the small group, the cell, the Sunday School class. At the cellular level, many animals are more or less alike. At the cell level, all growing churches are just alike. Growing churches grow through the multiplication of cells.
If we can perfect the skill of growing a class from 10 to 14 in a year, you couldn't build buildings fast enough to contain the growth. We can do it by half-way decent teaching (you don't have to be Beth Moore to get this done) and by inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month. A group of 10 that doubles every 18 months and passes on the doubling DNA will reach 1000 people in ten years. Like to know where your church would be in 10 years if every group doubled every 18 months? Just add two zeros to your current attendance.
I believe these things to the core of my being. If I only had 182 days to live, I would want to make sure that a few someones believed them deeply before I left.
The perfect day
The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that the knowledge that I had only 182 days to live wouldn't change anything. I would want to spend time with my kids, but I try to do that now. I would want to spend time with my wife, but I do that now. I would want to cast a vision for doubling groups, but I do that now. But, in a way, it would change everything.
If I only had 182 days left, I would want to make each one of those 182 days a masterpiece. I would want to live each day free of grumpiness and boredom and anxiety. I would want each day marked by love, joy, peace, zeal, compassion, faith and hope.
If I had only 182 days left I would savor the texture of the oatmeal, I would appreciate the blueness of the sky, I would enjoy the smell and taste of morning coffee. I would think about God more and problems less. I would sing more and worry less.
If I had only 182 days left I would want to make each moment a masterpiece and squeeze all the life out of every moment I have left. Jesus spoke of not borrowing worry from tomorrow. I would want to live like that.
Jesus also said, "Be perfect." I have always thought of that in a bit of a dutiful way, and an awfully high duty at that. If I only had 182 days to live, I would want to live that way. I would want to make each day perfect. God's commands are not far from the longings of our heart, if we will but get in touch with them.
How this has changed me
This is precisely how this conversation has altered the trajectory of my life. I want to be perfect. I want to live each day perfectly. I want to live each moment of each day perfectly. I want to enjoy each moment, savor each breath, appreciate each note of every song. And when I close my eyes for the last time, I want to wake up to hear Him say, "Well done, Son, well done."
I write two lessons a week that follow a question and answer format. These follow the curriculum outline for the Family Bible Series and the Explore the Bible Series.