How to Live for the New Year

There’s no better feeling than ending an awesome vacation and going back to work. What hapless soul would dare enter the new year without dreaming of their first days back at their nine to five. Though some people dread going back to work, I did not have such feelings of disdain, as I generally like what I do. I work with teenagers in the inner city, and with kids still being on vacation ,I figured my return would be the typical, adjust to work mode, organize my to do list, and get ready for whatever future upcoming events.  It wasn’t until I opened my email, that I realized this would not be the typical work week.

It’s funny how life has a way of throwing body shots, and left hooks, at you when you are not expecting it. It as if sometimes we are just spectators in life, watching this great match in the ring, with two extremely fit athletes exchanging blows, and then all of a sudden as we are marveling at the amazing display of skill, and fitness we are cracked in the jaw, and find ourselves dizzy lying on the floor trying to find out where the blow came from.

I was violently thrown to the floor by a furious punch this week, when I found out one of the teens I work with had recently passed away. Its ironic because right before I opened my email, my coworkers and I were talking about some recent shooting deaths  that happened in the nearby community during the holiday season.  We lamented how bad things are, how the shootings were unexplainable and how today’s inner city youth just seemed to have no rhyme or reason for their actions. However,  we eventually moved on and were able to function minutes later because the deaths were to people we did not know personally.

I was not able to move on after reading that email. I literally groaned, and for seconds was stunned by the fact that someone who I just talked with a couple of weeks ago was actually gone. What was worse is that the youth in particular had passed  during the time right after Christmas, and right between the New Year. I immediately was reminded about the fact that many people do not enter into a happy new year, but a strong realization, that they too are in the ring of life.

Its weird how the most important and powerful events in our life always seem so surreal. It didn’t really seem like this could be happening. This young man could not have really passed, it must be an accident. I was caught in violent storm of thoughts and emotions, Why did this have to happen? He was such a good kid. I will never get to ask him about his holiday season. What about his family? Why during the holidays? God how could you let this happen? Feelings of numbness, turned into sadness, turned into anger, morphed into confusion.

I then began to reflect on my last interactions with him.  The last in depth conversation with him happened sort of accidentally. He was running an errand for his mother, and I ran into him during my lunch break. We covered a variety of topics, sports, girls, his future. I remember really wanting to share more of my faith with him, but was hesitant because of the work relationship. I didn’t want to have to worry about being charged for proselytizing during work hours. I do remember telling him he needed to focus on what really matters in life, and that life is not all about the pursuit of wealth and fame. I worry however especially now that I didn’t say enough. What if  God placed me at the job, and into a relationship with him specifically to deliver God’s message of salvation for that specific time?  If I had known what I know today, I would’ve said more, I would have queried more into his personal faith and tried to deliver a stronger and clearer message than what I did.  I have to wrestle with that question, but in the end give it up to God.

Being a christian really changes the way you look at life and death. There are thoughts that we think, that don’t trouble the non- believer. Was that person saved? Did they know Jesus as their savior? Where will they go when they die? Because heaven and hell are not just fairy tales, but real places. What really sucks is when you don’t know where a person’s faith stands during their demise. Sometimes I wonder, why do I have to think like this? Why does it matter what a person’s beliefs are? It is here then that I am confronted with life’s essential questions; Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What happens when we die?, and am brought to the realization that the gospel is more than a story, it is life.

The gospel is the story of how God granted us life, we lost it, and he gives it back. The interesting part is that we receive life by accepting  and entering the death of Christ, so that we may live in the life of Christ; the resurrected life. (See Romans 6:4-6)Hence as believers we no longer live for our selves, but for him who died and gave himself for us. ( 2 Corinthians 5:15)True life is only found in Christ, in the giving up of our lives in exchange for his.

This week I was reminded about the truth that God’s word echoes time and time again that

The old life is a grass life,
its beauty as short-lived as wildflowers;
Grass dries up, flowers droop,
God’s Word goes on and on forever. (1 Peter 1:24-25 MSG)

and

13Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:13-14)

In light of this I believe Moses says it best when he says in Psalms 90:12-17 (MSG)

Oh! Teach us to live well!
Teach us to live wisely and well!
Come back, God—how long do we have to wait?—
and treat your servants with kindness for a change.
Surprise us with love at daybreak;
then we’ll skip and dance all the day long.
Make up for the bad times with some good times;
we’ve seen enough evil to last a lifetime.
Let your servants see what you’re best at—
the ways you rule and bless your children.
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
confirming the work that we do.
Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!

I think what gets us is not the fact that we are going to die, but the fact that we do not know when. Its the not knowing that gets us, and because of that we do not know how to live. I want to admonish every reader, to evaluate your life. What if this was your last year, how would you change, how would you live, and who would you live for? This life will pass, and the glories of it will fade, but it is God’s word that lasts forever. Those who have accept and obey God’s word will live forever, so  I say live for God. Abandon those plans that are merely fleshly pursuits, and seek the eternal treasure; God. There are still questions I have and I still am in the process of coming to terms with the death of a young man who was dear to me, and who many feel died before his time. At the same time I have come to take solace in the truth of God’s word and in the sovereignty of God. My response is to pray for the young man’s family and friends, and for God to teach me how to live well. May God teach you how to live well, and may you find life in his son Jesus Christ. Amen.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “How to Live for the New Year

  1. Nathan R.

    Another awesome entry. We will be praying for you and that young man’s family.

  2. regan

    I came across this blog on facebook. I am so glad I read it. I also work with kids and returned to work to find that a 5yo patient died. Her 4yo sister died two days later from the same disease. My initial reaction was to pray for this family. In their presence, i was at a loss for words. Why didn’t I tell their mother I was praying for her? I walked away from a grieving mother feeling guilty! While I realize the death of two beautiful sisters was not about me. I couldn’t help but try to decipher the lesson that may have been meant for me. My new year started with me asking the very same questions you posed in your blog. Thank you for providing more perspective through your words. Your words hit close to home this week.

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